Yes America, there is a wealth gap. Seven of the top ten wealthiest members in Congress are Democrats.
The results are based on a new study released today by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. The Center did an analysis of the financial statements filed by members of Congress for 2010 income and net worth.
This revelation of extreme wealth by Democratic politicians is completely contrary to the public image of the Democratic Party. President Obama has castigated “millionaires and billionaires,” suggesting they are evil people, largely Republican or conservative. The issue of the Democratic Party as the millionaire party has not yet made it into the mainstream media. But the facts are indisputable. Democratic members of Congress tend to be wealthier than their Republican counterparts.
According to the Center, 36 Senate Democrats and 30 Senate Republicans reported an average net worth in excess of $1 million in 2010. The median estimated net worth among members of the Senate Democrats was $2.58 million. Senate Republican median net worth was $2.43 million.
And, the wealthy Democrats tend to inherit their money. Republicans tend to earn it.
Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) all came by their fortunes through marriage or inheritance. Senator Kerry, who was born into wealth, has listed his net worth as high as $281 million, while his wife Teresa is estimated to be worth $1 billion. Ms. Heinz did not earn her wealth either. She inherited the money from her husband Senator John Heinz, who died in an airplane crash.
Senator Rockefeller, representing dirt poor West Virginia, inherited his fortune from his family. He is reported to be worth $136 million.
While the economy continued to tank in 2010, Rep. Pelosi reported her own wealth to grow by 62%. Pelosi’s husband, Paul, is a financier. They own a multi-million dollar vineyard and a number of million dollar homes. They have a net worth of $196 million.
Former Democrat Rep. Jane Harmon (D-CA), who in 2010 was listed as the third wealthiest member of Congress, was married to the late stereo magnate Sidney Harman of Harman-Karmen fame. Together they were worth $493 million.
Only Republican Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) married into major money. His net worth went from $12 million to $502 million in two years. The explanation? He married an heiress to the Clear Channel radio empire.
Among those who actually got their money by earning it, Republicans were in the slight majority. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), a self-made millionaire earned his wealth by creating the Viper car security system. He is estimated to be worth more than $700 million. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) started as a rancher and attorney. His wealth is cited as $88 million.
Rep. Vernon Buchanan (R-FL), one of only three Republicans to make the top ten earned his money through real estate and car dealerships. He is estimated to be worth over $323 million.
Much has been made about Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) being the wealthiest Republican in the U.S. Senate. But he is ranked only number 14 because there are so many wealthier Democrats ahead of him. He doesn’t make the Top Ten. He worked as a construction superintendent. Then started his own company. Today he is worth $107 million.
Among Democrats who earned their income, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) first made his money as a mobile phone franchiser, later as a high tech venture capitalist in Northern Virginia just outside of Washington.
Warner is reported to have learned about the telecommunications industry while working for Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT). Sen. Dodd decided not to run for re-election as he was under a cloud for taking a below-market mortgage from the CEO of now bankrupt Countrywide Financial.
For those who are keeping score, Dodd recently landed a sweet job as the head of the Motion Picture Association of America after he declined to run for re-election in 2008. The Hollywood Reporter says his annual salary will be pegged at $1.5 million.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), earned his fortune in the flower and greeting card business. He was the founder of Pro-Flower and an e-commerce greeting card company which he sold to Excite.com for more than $700 million.
New Jersey’s long time Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) rounds out the top ten. He originally was with a high tech company and is worth $116 million. New Jersey, considered one of the most corrupt states in the country, has had many home-grown Democratic gazillionaires for a long time.
Former Democratic Senator and New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine last week resigned as CEO of MF Global, a well established company he ran into the ground. As of last week federal investigators were trying to determine why the company is missing $900 million. It closed its doors last week and laid off more than 1,000 employees.
The issue of politics and money has been a complicated one. President Barack Obama brought in far more money from Wall Street in his 2008 campaign than his Republican opponent Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Obama raked in $1 million from Goldman Sachs employees that year. While his numbers are lower this year, the President has attracted $15.2 million from the financial services industry that he attacks so frequently.
Many Democrats run institutions on Wall Street. Jamie Dimon, the CEO of J.P. Morgan has been a long-time Democratic supporter. So too has Goldman Sachs Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein.
When will the mainstream media figure out that Democrats are part of a millionaire’s club too? Maybe someone should tell the Occupy Wall Street protesters, if they are still in their park.
Note: This post erroneously stated that Rep. McCaul represents Florida, and that Rep. Jared Polis is a senator. Both have been corrected, and we regret the errors. -bp