By Kevin Bogardus and Megan R. Wilson - 08/20/13 08:55 AM EDT
The chief inquisitor of President Obama's White House is now Congress's richest man.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) saw his fortune rise to at least $355 million in 2012, enough to take the crown on The Hill's 50 Wealthiest list.
Issa, who made his riches with the Viper car security system, snatched the No. 1 spot away from Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who came in second with a net worth of at least $101 million.
Thirty-seven of the lawmakers on the list are from the House, with the remaining 13 coming from the Senate.
While several high-profile lawmakers are among the wealthiest — including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — most of the leading contenders for the White House in 2016 missed the top 50.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the GOP's vice presidential candidate in 2012, reported a minimum net worth of $2.3 million, while conservative star Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) posted wealth of $1.5 million.
Two other rising GOP stars, Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.), reported more modest financial means. While Paul's wealth stood at about $455,000, Rubio was in the red with a negative net worth of roughly $190,000.
On the Democratic side, Sen. Mark Warner (Va.) stood out among possible 2016 hopefuls with a minimum net worth of $88.5 million, good enough for third place on The Hill's list.
Two other Democrats in the 2016 discussion, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), fell on opposite ends of the financial spectrum. While Warren reported a portfolio worth at least $3.9 million, Gillibrand was barely in the black with a net worth of $166,000.
The Hill's Wealthiest list bid farewell to some familiar faces this year.
John Kerry — a perennial contender for richest lawmaker thanks to his wife's ties to the Heinz ketchup fortune — left the Senate this year to serve as President Obama's secretary of State.
Ex-Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), owner of the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks and another regular on the list, decided to retire after last year's election.
And the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who was the first full-time salesman for the payroll processing company Automatic Data Processing, died in 2013.
Taking their place are several lawmakers who are serving their first terms on Capitol Hill.
Among the new additions is Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.), whose $15.2 million showing continues the tradition of having a wealthy member of the Kennedy clan in Congress.
Other first-timers include Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), a former Microsoft executive with wealth of at least $23.9 million; Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), a former businessman with $22.3 million; and Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), a former tech entrepreneur with at least $9.2 million.
Other lawmakers earned a spot on the list after their assets climbed skyward.
Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) saw his share in Kentucky and Tennessee farmland and real estate spike, helping to give him a net worth of $8.2 million. Rep. John Fleming's (R-La.) wealth was $10.7 million in 2012 after his holdings in franchise development and properties soared in value.
But it's Issa who stands as king of Capitol Hill, thanks in no small part to the removal of $100 million in liabilities from his balance sheet on his 2012 form.
Issa listed several investment funds among his assets, including some that are worth more than $50 million each. He also has properties valued in the millions of dollars.
Before coming to Congress, Issa was a successful chief executive who founded Directed Electronics and served as chairman of the Consumer Electronics Association.
The runner-up on the list, McCaul, owes much of his wealth to family trusts. His wife, Linda, is the daughter of Clear Channel Communications founder Lowry Mays.
To come up with its rankings, The Hill used financial disclosure forms covering the 2012 calendar year. The reports are not perfect because they provide value ranges instead of exact figures.
The Hill adds up the low figures in each value range for every asset and liability. Then, the sum of a lawmaker's liabilities is deducted from the sum of his or her assets to calculate a minimum net worth.
Some lawmakers provide lengthy bank statements or investment reports with their annual financial statements. The Hill uses exact figures when possible.
The methodology is designed to provide a conservative estimate of a lawmaker's worth, and it's likely that many lawmakers, such as Issa and McCaul, are wealthier than their reports indicate.
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— Meredith Bentsen, Amrita Khalid, Mike Lillis, Tianna Mañón, Talia Mindich, Alex Resnak and Katie Tank contributed to this report.