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Study: Congress has first millionaire majority

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Breanna Deutsch Contributor
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For the first time ever, most members of Congress have a net work of $1 million or more, researchers from the Center for Responsive Politics found in a study.

According to financial disclosures filed last year by all members of Congress, at least 268 out of the 534 current legislatures had an average net worth of $1 million in 2012. As of the May filing deadline, the median net worth for the members of Congress who were serving at the time was $1,000,787. This is a noticeable increase from the previous year, when the median was $966,000.

Throughout American history elected officials have generally held far more assets than the average American, but now their net worth has passed a whole new threshold.

The Center’s executive director Sheila Krumholz explained in OpenSecrets.org, “Despite the fact that polls show how dissatisfied Americans are with Congress overall, there’s been no change in our appetite to elect affluent politicians to represent our concerns in Washington.”

She added, “Of course, it’s undeniable that in our electoral system, candidates need access to wealth to run financially viable campaigns, and the most successful fundraisers are politicians who swim in those circles to begin with.”

Democrats, on average, have deeper pockets than Republicans. The study found that congressional Democrats had a median net worth of $1.04 million, while GOP members of Congress were at about $1 million. Both parties had a higher net worth than the year before, when Democrats were racking in $990,000 and Republicans $907,000 in 2011.

While the average House member is not quite at millionaire status, they still have a higher net worth in 2012 than the year before. Again, Democrats were the wealthier bunch of the two parties with a median net worth of $929,000. House Republicans had a median net worth of $884,000.

Senators are doing even better. They climbed from having $2.5 million in 2011 to an average of $2.7 million in 2012. Republicans outdid their colleagues on the other side of aisle with a median net worth of $2.9 million, while Democrats had a median of $2.4 million.

Democrats relinquished their lead in the Senate largely because of the loss of two very wealth members — Secretary of State John Kerry, a former senator from Massachusetts had net worth of $248 million in 2011, and the now deceased New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg who had an average net worth of $87.5 million.

The richest and poorest members of Congress were both Republicans. Thanks to the $464 million fortune he made in his car alarm business, California Rep. Darrell Issa was once again at the top of the financial ladder. California Rep. David Valadao was in last place. Due to loans for his family farm, Valdao had a net worth of negative $12.1 million 2012.

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