50 Richest Members of Congress

50 Richest Members of Congress AFP/Creative Commons

When the base salary for a member of Congress is $174,000—up from $8 per diem two hundred years ago—today, even the poorest among them will be in the top percentiles of American earners. For many, their wealth precedes their political careers.

Running for Congress isn't cheap—according to OpenSecrets.org, the cost of a winning campaign for House candidates in 2016 averaged at $1.3 million; for the Senate, it was $10.4 million. Even though the typical campaign isn't personally financed, candidates still need to attract wealthy financiers, and being among the wealthy elites themselves along with all the contacts that brings, is a big help on the road to the Hill.

Drawing on figures from 2015, a report by Quartz in February 2018 found that Congress members earn 12 times the average family income in the United States ($51,000 a year). The median net worth of a senator is a remarkable $3.2 million. For representatives, it is $900,000.

The demographics of the 50 richest Congress members listed here may hold few surprises. They are mostly Republican and mostly male. Of the top 50, 33 belong to the GOP. Only seven of the total are women—six of whom are Democrats. All except one—Rohit Khanna, of the Democrats—are white.

The source of their wealth varies, but the majority either inherited or married into their wealth. There are a few American Dream-style stories that the Republican Party love to champion: The son of a truck salesman who became a multi-millionaire; the son of an electrician who went on to become the youngest CEO in the history of the New York Stock Exchange. But for the most part, they only reaffirm the sense that, for all the myth and promise of America's meritocracy, the best way to become rich is to be born rich.

The 50 Richest Members of Congress

This list is drawn from Roll Call's most recent Wealth of Congress study, using data from the end of 2016. In fact, the 50 listed here are likely to be even wealthier than the cited figures suggest. The rules on what members of Congress are required to disclose are thorough but not exhaustive: Neither the value of main residences nor the private possessions inside them must be made public. For most Americans, these are their most important financial assets. For the 50 people listed here, they don't even count.

1. Rep. Darrell Issa (born November 1, 1953), R-CA. Net worth: $283.3 million. His up-by-your-bootstraps story reads like a Republican myth: The son of a truck salesman, Issa left school at seventeen, joined the army, narrowly avoided two charges of car theft and then put some money into a failing electronics business. Somewhat ironically, he went on to pioneer the enormously popular Viper car alarm.U.S. Library of Congress/Public Domain
02 Greg Gianforte
2. Rep. Greg Gianforte (born April 17, 1961), R-MT. Net worth: $135.7 million. One of Congress’ richest members, he is also one of its newest. He made his money in business and engineering, founding a software company that sold to McAfee for $10 million. Shortly after joining Congress in May 2017, he made headlines after he infamously “body-slammed” a Guardian journalist. He was sentenced to 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of anger management.U.S. Library of Congress/Public Domain
03 Jared Polis
3. Rep. Jared Polis (born May 12, 1975), D-CO. Net worth: $122.6 million. The richest Democrat in Congress will soon be giving up his seat after he announced that he is running for Governor of Colorado in the 2018 election. He made his fortune through various technology companies and ventures. His is the first openly gay parent in Congress in American history.U.S. Library of Congress/Public Domain
04 Dave Trott
4. Rep. Dave Trott (born October 16, 1960), R-MI. Net worth: $119.1 million. Dubbed the ‘foreclosure king,’ Trott’s vast wealth has a particularly dark side: His real estate giant, Trott & Trott, specializes in evicting people from their homes. At the height of the subprime mortgage crisis, it evicted almost 80,000 a year in Michigan alone. He is now representing the state in Congress.U.S. Library of Congress/Public Domain
05 Michael McCaul
5. Rep. Michael McCaul (born January 14, 1962), R-TX. Net worth: $113 million. McCaul married into most of his money. His family fortune is inherited by his wife and children. His wife, Linda McCaul, is the daughter of Lowry Mays—the founder and ex-chairman of the largest owner of radio stations in America, Clear Channel Communications. Her brother is the current CEO.U.S. Library of Congress/Public Domain
06 John Delaney
6. Rep. John Delaney (born April 16, 1963), D-MD. Net worth: $92.6 million. If you haven’t heard of Delaney, you will soon enough. The multi-millionaire is running for the presidency in 2020. He is the son of an electrician and when a healthcare company he founded went public, he became the youngest CEO in the history of the New York Stock Exchange. Whether he has what it takes to win the Democrat’s presidential nomination—the competition could include Oprah—remains to be seen.U.S. Library of Congress/Public Domain
07 Mark Warner
7. Sen. Mark Warner (born December 15, 1954), D-VA. Net worth: $92.2 million. The richest senator and the second richest Democrat in Congress, Warner graduated from Harvard Law School and then raked it in as a venture capitalist. Warner had served as a staffer to a U.S. Senator in his twenties and—in a familiar routine—used his knowledge of federal law to make a fortune brokering deals. He used the money he made to launch his political career in the 90s. Once touted as a potential presidential candidate, he now seems satisfied with the slower rhythms of the Senate.U.S. Library of Congress/Public Domain
08 Vern Buchanan
8. Rep. Vern Buchanan (born May 8, 1951), R-FL. Net worth: $73.9 million. There are a lot of rich car dealers in Congress—but none quite as rich as Buchanan. The son of Finnish immigrants, he started in the printing business in Michigan, before moving to Florida and buying his first dealership in 1992. He has faced charges from various federal bodies, Congressional committees and former employees—mainly about financial misconduct and mistreatment of employees—but in 2012, the Justice Department ended its 11-month investigation with no criminal charges.U.S. Library of Congress/Public Domain