50 Richest Members of Congress

The median net worth of a senator is a staggering $3.2 million. For representatives, it's $900,000.
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