By Kevin Bogardus and Megan R. Wilson - 08/21/12 09:00 AM EDT
Republicans dominate The Hill’s annual rankings of the 50 wealthiest lawmakers for the second year in a row, with Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) retaining the crown as the richest member of Congress.
This year’s wealthy list tilts decisively once again toward the right side of the aisle, with 31 of the 50 richest coming from the GOP. Thirty-one of the lawmakers on the list are from the House, with the remaining 19 coming from the Senate.
McCaul reported a minimum net worth of $290.5 million for 2011, a more than $3 million jump from 2010 that kept him nearly $100 million ahead of his nearest challenger, Democratic Sen. John Kerry (Mass.).
The Texas Republican’s wealth stems from several family trusts. His father-in-law, Lowry Mays, is the founder of the radio broadcasting giant Clear Channel Communications.
Kerry, the runner-up, reported a net worth of at least $198.8 million for 2011, much of it coming from wife Teresa Heinz Kerry’s ties to the Heinz Ketchup fortune. The senator is the richest Democrat in Congress by a sizable margin, and topped The Hill’s Wealthiest lists in 2009 and 2010 before being dethroned by McCaul last year.
The Massachusetts senator reclaimed the No. 2 spot on this year’s list from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who saw his minimum net worth fall by almost $80 million. Issa, a powerful House chairman who made his fortune in car security systems, had at least $140.6 million in 2011, placing him third on The Hill’s list.
Issa listed four liabilities on his financial disclosure form, including $75 million in loans that he reported paying off in early 2011. Every liability that is reported on a lawmaker’s yearly disclosure report is counted against his or her wealth under The Hill’s methodology.
This is the first time The Hill has published its rankings in the midst of a presidential election year. The race between Republican Mitt Romney and President Obama has been dominated by a debate over wealth and how it should be taxed, with Obama calling for higher taxes on the wealthy.
The Hill reviewed lawmakers’ 2011 calendar year financial disclosure forms to develop the rankings. Lawmakers do not have to report exact figures for their assets and liabilities on the forms, instead providing the values in ranges.
To calculate the wealth of each lawmaker, The Hill uses the low figure in the value range for each asset and liability. The liabilities are subtracted from the assets to reach a minimum net worth.
Some lawmakers chose to provide exact figures for their holdings, often by attaching bank statements to their disclosure forms. In those cases, The Hill used exact figures when possible to calculate a lawmaker’s wealth.
A new wrinkle for this year’s Wealthiest list was that lawmakers had to disclose mortgages on their personal residences for the first time. That was required by the STOCK Act, in response to the Countrywide scandal in which lawmakers and congressional aides received preferential treatment on their mortgages.
This year’s list includes a few newcomers.
Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree (Maine) clocked in at No. 12 after coming nowhere near the top 50 in 2010. Her net worth skyrocketed from at least $500,000 to $31.8 million last year after her marriage to hedge-fund manager Donald Sussman.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), meanwhile, returned to the list at No. 22 with a minimum net worth of $14.5 million. His spouse’s holding in the famed Strand Book Store in New York City jumped from a minimum value of $1 million to being worth at least $5 million. His wife, Nancy Bass Wyden, helps run the store.
Other lawmakers posted impressive gains.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) solidified his status among the very wealthiest lawmakers with a net worth of at least $80.1 million in 2011 — a spike of almost $25 million from 2010. The former Connecticut state attorney general stayed in the top 10, coming in at No. 6.
One of Blumenthal’s Senate colleagues, Mark Warner (D-Va.), also had a good run last year. His wealth increased by more than $9 million to $85.9 million, placing him fourth on the list.
Some lawmakers didn’t fare as well, and reported substantial losses.
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), who was cleared in July by the House Ethics Committee of misleading Congress about his finances, slipped out of the top 10 after reporting a drop of more than $5 million in his net worth. The congressman’s $36.5 fortune ranks him 11th, just behind freshman Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio), who was worth at least $36.7 million in 2011.
Due to the limitations of the forms, it’s likely that some lawmakers are far richer than The Hill’s list indicates.
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), as owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, is certainly one of the richest members of Congress. But his status as a NBA basketball team owner only counts for $50 million under the value ranges given on financial disclosure forms. Fortune magazine estimates the team is worth nearly $270 million.
Coupled with some substantial liabilities, Kohl ends up having a minimum net worth of $10.1 million for 2011, placing him at No. 32 on the list.
Rachel Leven, Julie Ershadi, David Kaner, Lydia Nuzum, Gunnar Sidak and Jennifer Smola contributed to this report.
Update: This story was corrected on Friday, Aug. 24 to show that Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) has a minimum net worth of $72.2 million. Incorrect information appeared in an earlier version of this story.
Click below to see The Hill's ranking of the 50 wealthiest lawmakers.