Talk about bad timing.
As Washington reels from the news of 10.2 percent unemployment, the Center for Responsive Politics is out with a new report describing the wealth of members of Congress.
Among the highlights: Two-hundred-and-thirty-seven members of Congress are millionaires. That's 44 percent of the body - compared to about 1 percent of Americans overall.
CRP says California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa is the richest lawmaker on Capitol Hill, with a net worth estimated at about $251 million. Next in line: Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), worth about $244.7 million; Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), worth about $214.5 million; Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), worth about $209.7 million; and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), worth about $208.8 million.
All told, at least seven lawmakers have net worths greater than $100 million, according to the Center's 2008 figures.
"Many Americans probably have a sense that members of Congress aren't hurting, even if their government salary alone is in the six figures, much more than most Americans make," said CRP spokesman Dave Levinthal. "What we see through these figures is that many of them have riches well beyond that salary, supplemented with securities, stock holdings, property and other investments."
The CRP numbers are somewhat rough estimates - lawmakers are required to report their financial information in broad ranges of figures, so it's impossible to pin down their dollars with precision. The CRP uses the mid-point in the ranges to build its estimates.
Senators' estimated median reportable worth sunk to about $1.79 million from $2.27 million in 2007. The House's median income was significantly lower and also sank, bottoming out at $622,254 from $724,258 in 2007.
But CRP's analysis suggests that some lawmakers did well for themselves between 2007 and 2008, even as many Americans lost jobs and saw their savings and their home values plummet.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) gained about $9.2 million. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) gained about $3 million, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) had an estimated $2.6 million gain, and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) gained about $2.8 million.
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT
Support Our People-Powered Media Model Today
If you believe the survival of independent media is vital to a healthy democracy, please step forward with a donation to nonprofit Common Dreams today:
Some lawmakers have profited from investments in companies that have received federal bailouts; dozens of lawmakers are invested in Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.
Among executive branch officials, CRP says the richest is Securities and Exchange Commission Chairwoman Mary L. Schapiro, with a net worth estimated at $26 million.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is next, worth an estimated $21 million. President Barack Obama is the sixth-wealthiest, worth about an estimated $4 million. Vice President Joe Biden has often tagged himself as an original blue collar man. The CRP backs him up, putting his net worth at just $27,000.
He's hardly the worst off.
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), freshman Rep. Harry Teague (D-N.M.), Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Rep. John Salazar (D-Colo.) and Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) each a net worth of less than zero, CRP says.
One caveat on those numbers: Federal financial disclosure laws don't require members to list the value of their personal residences. That information could alter the net worth picture for many lawmakers.
Even so, Levinthal said, "It is clear that some members are struggling financially.
"Over a calendar year, one's wealth can change drastically. Many peoples' investments took a nose dive over night in the last year," he said.
A number of lawmakers are estimated to have suffered double-digit percentage lossed in their net worth from 2007 to 2008. The biggest losers include Kerry, who lost a whopping $127.4 million; Warner lost about $28.1 million; Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) lost about $11.8 million; and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) lost about $10.1 million.