Members of Congress Getting Richer, Despite Market Meltdown


Congressional members scored big during the steep downturn in the market, posting a 16% gain collectively between 2008 to 2009, according to a study issued Wednesday by the Center for Responsive Politics.

By comparison, the Nasdaq fell 8.4% during that same two-year period.

Not only did this group's investment portfolio perform well, but any notion of the humble public servant can now be laid the rest. Virtually half of Congressional members are millionaires, compared to 1% for society at large in America, notes a post in the Center's OpenSecrets blog.

And among this group, eight members of Congress are mega-millionaires, with portfolios above $100 million. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) holds the largest treasure chest, estimated in excess of $300 million. Trailing close behind is Rep. Jane Harman, (D-Calif.) with her portfolio averaging $293,454,761. Rounding out the top three is Sen. John Kerry, (D-Mass.), with $238,812,296.

Shelia Krumholz, the Center's executive director, had this to say about the findings:

Few federal lawmakers must grapple with the financial ills -- unemployment, loss of housing, wiped out savings -- that have befallen millions of Americans.

Congressional representatives on balance rank among the wealthiest of wealthy Americans and boast financial portfolios that are all but unattainable for most of their constituents.

Last year, the median wealth of a House of Representative was $765,010 -- up from $645,503 the previous year, the report noted. And the median wealth for senators jumped up to nearly $2.38 million last year, from $2.27 million a year earlier.

Sources of Wealth

The top industries that are bringing the bacon home for Congressional members leads off with the real estate industry, which accounted for a collective maximum value of $898.3 million last year. Next up is the live entertainment and recreational industry, which represented $255 million in Congressional members' portfolios. Electronics manufacturing, securities and investments, and the computers and Internet industry contributed to the top ranks.

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Adding some sugar to the mix are the campaign contributions by players in these respective industries. Microsoft (MSFT), a member of the computer and Internet industry, plunked down $21 million in campaign contributions between 1989 and 2010. Morgan Stanley (MS) coughed up $19.8 million, while JPMorgan (JPM) dished up $20.3 million in the period. The largest contributed by far was AT&T (T), with $45.6 million.

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