Who's in the Money: Number of Senate Millionaires on the Rise


Christopher Weber

More senators are in the money than ever, according to a Roll Call report that found 54 lawmakers are worth at least $1 million.

The combined minimum wealth of the entire chamber jumped to $680 million in 2009, more than four percent higher than the previous year, according to financial disclosures made this year.

Several senators saw their wealth rise dramatically last year, including Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), whose minimum bottom line increased more than 400 percent to $370,000. The increase was due to a revaluation of his investment in his family farm, which rose to at least $250,000.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) benefited from an inheritance from his mother and saw his minimum net worth go up 550 percent, to around $130,000. Still Cornyn rates among the relatively poor senators, tied with Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) in 90th place.

The disclosures do not paint a complete picture. Roll Call said its analysis "is based solely on the information lawmakers provide in their annual reports. The minimum value of all liabilities is subtracted from the minimum value for all assets." Senators are not required to reveal the value of secondary residences or any possessions, such as works of art, that are not held for the purpose of generating income. Payments from federal retirement accounts and Social Security are also not reported.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) remains the wealthiest lawmaker, with $188.37 million.

Roll Call provides the unusual case of Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), who ranks as the poorest member of Congress in 2009, "despite the fact that he likely is among the richest." As Roll Call wrote:

Like most lawmakers, Kohl uses only the broad reporting categories required in the financial disclosure forms to provide information on his finances. Those forms limit the greatest minimum value of an asset to "over $50 million."

On the forms, Kohl places the value of his NBA franchise, the Milwaukee Bucks, in the more than $50 million category. Forbes estimated in December that the team is worth $254 million.

But with the NBA franchise contributing only $50 million to Kohl's wealth, according to the form, and liabilities related to the team counted elsewhere at $115 million, Kohl's minimum net worth on financial disclosures settles at negative $4.64 million.

Read the complete analysis here.