Ten Ultra-Rich Congresspeople Who "Represent" Some of the Most Financially Troubled Districts

These are the rich Criminals who represent you.


The hard times that most Americans continue to experience don't seem to be making an impact on their representatives in Washington. Why? Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of a member of the House more than doubled from $280,000 to $725,000 in inflation-adjusted 2009 dollars, excluding home equity.


Members of Congress have been getting richer over the last 25 years by kowtowing to the rich.

Over the same period the wealth of an American family has declined slightly, with the comparable median figure sliding from $20,600 to $20,500.


Nearly half of all members of Congress are millionaires yet many of them don't see themselves as rich. Representative Ed Pastor, Democrat from Arizona said about himself: “I guess a millionaire’s income doesn’t go very far these days.”


And though most Americans would probably be happy to have a net worth, like Pastor's, over $1 milion, it's true that compared to some of his colleagues in Washington, Pastor is merely doing all right. Compared to Sen. John Kerry, whose average net worth the Post calculated to be $231,722,794, or Rep. Darrell Issa, the richest person in Congress with an average net worth of $448,125,017, Pastor looks like a regular working stiff.


But the real comparison isn't between members of Congress. It's looking at these ultra-wealthy politicians in comparison to the folks they represent. So here, we present 10 of the richest members of Congress, men and women whose wealth utterly dwarfs that of their constituents. While these aren't the 10 richest according to the raw numbers, they're the ones whose districts are largely suffering the most ill consequences of the slow economy.


1) Rep. Mike Kelly, Republican, Pennsylvania District 3

The Post quoted Kelly, who represents a working-class Western Pennsylvania district, as saying, “Let’s stop railing against the really wealthy because I got to tell you something, as a guy who has had to pay his own way his whole life, I am greatly offended by the idea that somehow someone in Washington knows how to spend my money better than I do.”


But Kelly's idea of paying his own way includes inheriting a car dealership, marrying a wealthy oil heiress, and making some money from the government bailout of the auto industry. As a car dealer, he also profited from the government's “Cash for Clunkers” program. In 2010, he was the 22nd richest member of Congress, with an average net worth of $34,612,518.


Meanwhile, 16% of the people in his district—and a whopping 46% of its African-American population -- live in poverty. 33,403 children, or 24%, are poor, and 9.2% of the adults are unemployed. The household median wage is a mere $42,639 – almost $8,000 less than the national average -- and 9% make less than $10,000 a year. Only 1% make over $200,000 a year, and nearly 14% used Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (commonly known as SNAP or food stamps) in the past year.


2) Rep. Diane Lynn Black, Republican, Tennessee District 6

Black was elected to Congress as part of the Tea Party class in 2010, from a mostly suburban and rural area east of Nashville, and is the 25th richest member of Congress, with an average net worth of $31,272,522.


Her husband is CEO of a company called Aegis Sciences Corp., which according to its Web site “was founded as a sports anti-doping laboratory at Vanderbilt University” and “has evolved into a full service forensic sciences company providing toxicology and consulting services.”


Despite the fact that 16% of her constituents live in poverty, including 23% of the children and a full 39% of Latino residents. Black voted against the payroll tax cut and unemployment extension. (Her district also has 11.1% unemployment.) The median income for a household is $43,712 a year, and 8.1% make under $10,000 a year, with 15.2% needing food stamps to help feed their families.


3) Rep. Jim Renacci, Republican, Ohio District 16

Jim Renacci was also elected to Congress in 2010, and with his average net worth of $42,060,709, became the 20th richest lawmaker. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, his fortune comes from nursing homes, real estate investments, car and motorcycle dealerships, a bar and grill, an arena football team and a minor-league baseball team. The Plain Dealer also reported that he sold 40 cars worth $754,167 under the Cash for Clunkers program, and that he had to pay $1.3 million in back taxes in 2006 to make up for misreporting on his 2000 form.


Meanwhile, in Renacci's district, unemployment is 11%, 83,518 people (or 13%) live in poverty, which includes 22% of the children and 39 % of African Americans. Only 2.2 % make over $200,000 a year, while 6.5 % make less than $10,000 a year and the median household income is around $46,000.


4) Rep. Kenny Marchant, Republican, Texas District 24

Marchant was a close ally of then-Texas governor George W. Bush, and according to the Sunlight Foundation has the fifth-largest holdings in oil companies among members of Congress. The 17th richest Congressperson in 2010 is a member of the Tea Party Caucus and has an average net worth of $49,340,275. Marchant is a real estate developer who owns a home construction company.


Marchant's district is fairly well-off, with a median income of $57,031 a year, but 20 % of its children still live in poverty as does 23 % of its Latino population.


5) Sen. James E. Risch, Republican, Idaho

Risch was elected to replace the disgraced Senator Larry Craig (who was arrested for soliciting in an airport bathroom). He's the 16th richest member of Congress, with an average net worth of $54,088,026. A longtime politician and former Idaho governor, Risch apparently came to his wealth through his time as a lawyer.


Meanwhile, back in Idaho, 15.7 % of the population are living in poverty, including 80,316 children. Thirty-two% of the state's Native American population also fall beneath the poverty line. The median household income is only $43,490, and only 1.8 % make more than $200,000. 10% of Idaho's civilian labor force is unemployed, and 12.5 % were on food stamps at some point in the last year.


6) Sen. Bob Corker, Republican, Tennessee

Corker is the largest landowner in Hamilton County, Tennessee. He was accused, when mayor of Chattanooga, of illegally using his position to push through a land deal between one of his companies and Wal-Mart. The 15th richest congressman, Corker's average net worth in 2010 was $59,550,022, according to the Post. And he's a fan of the Bush tax cuts, which unsurprisingly keep his own taxes low.

Corker's constituents in Tennessee have a median wage just over $40,000 a year, and 17.7 % of them are below the federal poverty line. 26% of Tennessee's children, 29% of its African-American population, 34% of its Latinos and 36% of its Native American residents live in poverty, while 11.3% are unemployed and a full 17% used SNAP benefits to get through the last year.


7) Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Democrat, West Virginia

Yes, he's one of those Rockefellers. He's a great-grandson of the famed John D. Rockefeller, the first Democrat in a Republican family, and often a fairly progressive voice on economic issues. He is incredibly wealthy. The 10th richest member of Congress in 2010, his average net worth was $99,057,011 according to the Post. Meanwhile, his constituents are the poorest on this list—18.1% of West Virginians live in poverty, and the median household income in his state is $38,218. Just 1.4% make over $200,000, and 15.4 % have used food stamps to get by this year. 8.9 % of West Virginians are unemployed.


8) Rep. Vernon Buchanan, Republican, Florida, District 13

Buchanan, the eighth richest member of Congress in 2010 with a net worth somewhere around $136,152,641, was the founder of American Speedy Printing Centers and also got rich selling cars. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported in 2006 that Buchanan “uses offshore reinsurance companies in Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos Islands to reduce taxes on extended warranties sold by his auto dealerships,” which, it pointed out, is neither illegal nor uncommon, but is controversial and provoked a defensive statement from the then-candidate that he had always paid his taxes, “But I don't think anyone should pay more taxes than they owe."


Buchanan's district has seen poverty rates increase since 2007, with 15 % now under the poverty line and 13.7 % unemployed. Nine % have used food stamp benefits in the past year, and 6.1 % are making less than $10,000 a year.


9) Rep. Michael McCaul, Republican, Texas District 10

McCaul is married to the daughter of Clear Channel Communications' chairman and was the second richest member of Congress in 2010, clocking in with an average net worth of $380,411,527. In addition to voting against the payroll tax cut, McCaul voted to cut off mortgage modification aid for underwater borrowers under the Home Affordable Modification Program and echoed the same old claim that the wealthy are (OMG, here it comes) “job creators.”


But back at home in Texas, plenty of McCaul's constituents are still having a rough time: 7.3 % of them are unemployed, and the poverty rate has increased since 2007, with 13 % of the population and 18 % of children living below the poverty line. Nearly half his district's poor (65,142 out of 128,357) are Latino.


10) Rep. Darrell Issa, Republican, California District 49

“In Mr. Issa’s case, it is sometimes difficult to separate the business of Congress from the business of Darrell Issa.” Those were the words of Eric Lichtblau, writing in the New York Times this August 2011 about the activities of the man the Washington Post calls the richest in Congress. Issa has an average net worth of $448,125,017. Unlike many other wealthy members of Congress (including Rockefeller and Sen. John Kerry), Issa takes a direct hand in running his outside business.


In Issa's Southern California district, 14 % of the people and 21 % of the children are living below the poverty line. 13.8 % are unemployed, and 5.1 % used food stamps in the past year. Median household income is relatively high --$57,399--but 5 % still make less than 10K. While Issa has been good at bringing home projects that enhance his private wealth, it seems that many of his constituents are not feeling the benefits.


Lichtblau wrote, “As his private wealth and public power have grown, so too has the overlap between his private and business lives, with at least some of the congressman’s government actions helping to make a rich man even richer and raising the potential for conflicts.”

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