By Kevin Bogardus and Margaret Rawson - 09/06/11 09:30 AM EDT
One-fifth of the 50 richest members of Congress are freshman House Republicans sent to Washington last year with strong Tea Party support, according to The Hill’s 50 Wealthiest for 2011.
Ohio’s Rep. Jim Renacci, the wealthiest of the 87 freshman Republicans elected in 2010, has an estimated net worth of $35.9 million and is the 11th richest lawmaker in Congress, according to The Hill’s list.
He made his fortune through LTC Management Services, the Ohio nursing home owner and operator that he founded in 1985. The lawmaker still has close to $2 million in holdings tied to the company.
Hayworth is a former ophthalmologist whose work at a very profitable medical group left her with a fortune valued at a minimum of $9.3 million. Farenthold founded a computer consulting and Web design firm and has a net worth of at least $8.8 million.
Two other new members of the rich list, Reps. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) and Scott Rigell (R-Va.), made their fortunes with car dealerships. Kelly’s estimated wealth is $11.9 million, while Rigell’s is $10.7 million.
Just as the GOP class of 2010 has had a huge impact on The Hill’s Wealthiest list, it has also hit Washington hard. The freshman class was a dominant force in the debate over reducing budget deficits that nearly shut down the government earlier this year.
Freshman GOP members also had a hand in pressuring their leaders to negotiate a hard bargain on legislation to raise the debt ceiling, and have successfully prevented any new tax increases from being enacted. They have particularly stood against ending the Bush-era tax rates on wealthier households.
The other Republican freshmen on The Hill’s ranking of the 50 wealthiest members of Congress are Reps. Rick Berg (N.D.), Diane Black (Tenn.), Bill Flores (Texas), Steve Pearce (N.M.) and Richard Hanna (N.Y.), whose minimum net worth was calculated from a disclosure report he filed as a candidate.
Most of the freshman members appear to hold safe seats for their 2012 campaigns, though a few — including Kelly, Hayworth and Hanna — are in competitive districts. All three are in likely Republican districts, according to the most recent report by analyst Charlie Cook.
Overall, the 50 lawmakers on The Hill’s list are substantially wealthier than the class of 2010. Together, they reported a minimum net worth of more than $1.6 billion, about $200 million more than the lawmakers on last year’s survey.
The full list can be viewed here.
A financial boom among the most affluent lawmakers partly explains the increase. The most dramatic jump came from Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who reported a minimum net worth of at least $287 million — enough to vault him to the No. 1 ranking.
A number of family trusts and companies affiliated with McCaul’s spouse, Linda, were reported to be worth at least $50 million each in 2010, according to the lawmaker’s financial disclosure report. Linda McCaul is the daughter of Lowry Mays, the founder of the hugely successful radio broadcaster Clear Channel Communications.
The more than $213 million increase in McCaul’s net worth was by far the most reported by a lawmaker, though Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) notched an impressive gain of nearly $60 million, which solidified his position as the second wealthiest in Congress.
Issa reported a spike in his personal fortune in 2010 after he set up several different limited partnerships that took in commercial property from his DEI LLC, a Vista, Calif., commercial property management company. Those new companies are worth millions of dollars, and added to his minimum net worth of $220.4 million.
The only freshman lawmaker ranking among the Top 10 in wealth is Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), the former state attorney general. He reported a minimum net worth of $54.9 million, placing him eighth in The Hill’s rankings.
Much of Blumenthal’s wealth comes from his wife, Cynthia. Blumenthal’s father-in-law is real estate magnate Peter Malkin, whose property holdings include a 114-year lease on the Empire State Building.
The GOP’s electoral success in 2010 helped tilt the list toward Republicans. Six Democrats on The Hill’s 50 Wealthiest in 2010 — including former Reps. Alan Grayson (Fla.), John Spratt (S.C.) and Harry Teague (N.M.) — lost their reelection bids.
The Hill’s 2011 rankings include 32 Republicans and 18 Democrats. By chamber, the breakdown is 29 from the House, 21 from the Senate.
The threshold for making the top 50 rose significantly this year.
In years past, if a lawmaker’s minimum net worth was more than $5 million, he or she was nearly a lock to place among Congress’s wealthiest. But due to the sizable wealth of 2011’s freshman class, many lawmakers with more than $5 million didn’t make the cut.
The last slot in the rankings went to Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), whose net worth came to $6.2 million.
To calculate the 50 richest members of Congress, The Hill reviewed all lawmakers’ 2010 calendar-year congressional financial disclosure reports, which were released starting in June.
Those financial disclosure forms do not give exact values for lawmakers’ assets and liabilities. Instead, they report value ranges for each item listed by a lawmaker. A lawmaker’s Caribbean vacation villa, for example, might be appraised at $1.5 million, but a lawmaker would only have to report its value in the range of $1 million to $5 million.
For consistency, The Hill researchers recorded the lowest number of each value range to calculate lawmakers’ assets and liabilities. The sum of the liabilities was subtracted from the assets for a conservative estimate of each lawmaker’s net worth.
When possible, The Hill used exact figures from bank statements and other materials that lawmakers released to the public along with their financial disclosure forms.
The methodology used to rank the 50 richest members of Congress can sometimes understate the true size of lawmakers’ wealth.
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) is the owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, an estimated $258 million asset, according to Forbes magazine. Yet Kohl’s ownership of the Bucks only counts for $50 million in The Hill’s calculations, since that is the highest value range on the congressional financial disclosure report.
Kohl’s minimum net worth for 2010 is only $9.2 million, due to some large liabilities he reported.
Lauren Ceronie, Chris Goins, Jake Interrante, Rachel Leven, Cristina Marcos and Elena Schneider contributed to this report.