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Friday, 10 January 2014 06:52

Millionaires Are Now the Majority in Congress: The 1% Literally Rule Us

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anopensecrets1 10According to a new analysis by OpenSecretsBlog, "Millionaires' Club: For First Time, Most Lawmakers are Worth $1 Million-Plus":

Of 534 current members of Congress, at least 268 had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012, according to disclosures filed last year by all members of Congress and candidates. The median net worth for the 530 current lawmakers who were in Congress as of the May filing deadline was $1,008,767 -- an increase from last year when it was $966,000. In addition, at least one of the members elected since then, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), is a millionaire, according to forms she filed as a candidate. (There is currently one vacancy in Congress.)

Last year only 257 members, or about 48 percent of lawmakers, had a median net worth of at least $1 million.

Remember, of course, those in Congress who aren't millionaires have a very good chance of becoming ones after leaving office -- particularly senators -- by becoming lobbyists or working for corporations.

In short, we are ruled by people who have the perspective of wealth as something that they personally experience (or probably will if they aren't there already).  In addition, as members of Congress, they receive one of the best benefit packages around (short of stock option bonuses) paid for by the taxpayer.  That includes free executive class fitness centers (that stayed open during the last government shut down) and first class healthcare for a pittance.

In case you are curious, the two richest members of Congress are Republican representative:

The richest member of Congress was, once again, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) chairman of the House Oversight Committee. Issa, who made his fortune in the car alarm business, had an average net worth of $464 million in 2012. Issa had ruled the roost as the wealthiest lawmaker for several years but was bumped from that perch last year by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas).

In our analysis last year, we estimated that McCaul's 2011 average net worth was $500.6 million -- a dramatic increase for him from the year before. McCaul's affluence is primarily due to the holdings of his wife, Linda, the daughter of Clear Channel Communications Chairman Lowry Mays.

Issa, of course, is the alleged youth car stealer turned car alarm magnate who as Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee continually tries to attach Democrats to scandals.  He, for instance, is a primary leader in the House GOP/FOX News "Benghazi Obsession Brigade."

When the wealth of so many national legislative members is tied up in corporations and stocks, it is not difficult to understand the incestuousness of lawmaking with the interests of the 1%. Take for instance Rep. McCaul (see above), whose wealth is largely due to his wife's father being the head of Clear Channel.

The most popular corporate investment for members of congress is perennial tax avoidance bete noir, General Electric, with the Wells Fargo Bank coming in second:

General Electric continued to be the most popular investment for current members of Congress. In 2011, there were 71 lawmakers who reported owning shares in the company; in 2012, there were 74. The second most popular holding was the bank Wells Fargo, in which 58 members owned shares (up from 40 in 2011). Financial firms were well-represented in the 10 most popular investments: Bank of America came in sixth (51 members) and JPMorgan Chase was seventh (49 members). Both companies had more congressional investors than in 2011 (11 more for Bank of America and 10 more for JPMorgan Chase.)

Is it any wonder corporations and Wall Street have their way with Congress? 

(Photo: OpenSecrets)