Being in politics is not, in and of itself, a way to make money. In fact, most politicians do not make substantially more than the average middle class person — at least, according to their official salary. But, as recent reports prove, even in America power breeds more power, and money, once made, is easily grown if one is shrewd rather than foolish: And the two entities are inarguably interlinked. Many politicians go into politics after having found success in another venue — so entrepreneurs and the self-made millionaires, or those who inherited their wealth, may run for office once they tire of the same old, same old. Indeed, some large financial companies will actively encourage their top players to leave for government positions, offering monetary incentives.
Woodrow Wilson is quoted as having said: “It is not far from the truth to say that Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, whilst Congress in its committee rooms is Congress at work.” There are roughly 200 committees and subcommittees within the U.S. Congress today, and we hope the below 10 work hard, because they have more money than most of us ever will, and they have power, to boot. Who are they? Each year, CQ Roll Call (Congressional Quarterly) reviews each member of Congress’s financial disclosures for a global picture of the individual’s net assets. The latest figures are accurate as of the end of 2012; these are the 10 wealthiest members of congress, according to those stats, with a breakdown on how they’ve made their millions.
10. Rep. James B. Renacci: $35.9M
Formerly a mayor of Wadsworth, Ohio, Renacci is a Republican who has been an Ohio Congressional Representative since 2011. He is an entrepreneur and self-made millionaire with a degree in business administration. His group, LTC Companies, has part-ownership in a few Harley-Davidson dealerships as well as a chain of nursing homes. Individually, Renacci is also part-owner of a minor-league baseball team. There has been no lack of legal scrapes for this wealthy guy, with multiple lawsuits having been settled out of court or dropped, including an investigation by the FBI into campaign monies received which he was forced to return.
9. Sen. Dianne Feinstein: $41.7M
The oldest U.S. Senator, Feinstein, a Democrat, is the only Congresswoman to make it into the top 10 wealthiest. A Stanford graduate, she has been a senator since 1992, and is one of three on this list from California. Her first year of tenure as president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1978 saw the assassinations of both City Supervisor Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone. Feinstein succeeded Moscone as Mayor and remained in office until 1988. Since her first appointment as senator, she has won each re-election, setting a record in 2012, when she won the most popular votes in any U.S. Senate election ever.
8. Rep. Scott Peters: $44.7M
Californian Representative Peters has made most of his money through venture capital investing. His net worth varies greatly depending on which site one searches. CQ Roll Call, however, is the self-proclaimed “source for news on Capitol Hill;” one wonders if they employ different documents than other sites that report Peters’ net holdings as being up to $200 million. Like most things, the truth probably falls somewhere in between – as perhaps do his ethics. Peters’ specialty is in environmental law, but he was found to be grossly negligent in personal water consumption during a city drought with mandatory regulations. While serving as President of the San Diego City Council, he instituted an independent budget analyst to maintain governmental checks and balances, then co-approved a 24% pay raise for committee members including himself; it was denied.
7. Rep. Jared Polis: $68.1M
The only openly gay parent in Congress, this Democrat is a Representative from Colorado. Polis has made most of his money through entrepreneurship. He co-founded bluemountainarts.com with his parents, which was sold for the phenomenal sum of $780M after just three years. He then launched ProFlowers, which sold eight years later. The Congressman has been busy with his Jared Polis Foundation; it concentrates on his professional field, education, through teacher-awards, donations of computers, and other activities. Polis has also opened five schools with 11 or more campuses in Colorado and surrounding states. The schools are charter schools and/or focus on helping at-risk youth and immigrants. No wonder this philanthropist keeps getting voted back in; he’s a self-made man with an active hand in the policies he preaches.
6. Rep. John Delaney: $68.4M
A Democrat from Maryland, Delaney is the only current member of Congress to have served on the board of a publicly traded company. He is new to Congress as of 2013, after a career of extremely successful entrepreneurship where he repeatedly founded and grew companies that were (or became) traded on the New York Stock Exchange. One of these was a loan provider to smaller healthcare service providers usually ignored by bigger banks. Fittingly, Delaney is on the Congress Committee of Financial Services, and clearly he is a good person to be advising in this arena. He is also on the Joint Economic Committee. Good with money, maybe? This Congressman is a self-made millionaire.
5. Sen. Jay Rockefeller: $83.8M
This Democrat is the only political member of his six-generation famous family to have held office not as a Republican. That must have had made for some interesting Thanksgiving dinners! Born John D. Rockefeller IV, the Congressman is unsurprisingly an Exeter boy and Harvard grad; his three years Japanese study in Tokyo and subsequent Harvard major – Far Eastern Languages – might be less expected, however. Rockefeller worked in the Peace Corps in DC under JFK, and was later Operations Director in the Philippines. Interesting feller! Bet he’s never heard that one before…
4. Sen. Richard Blumenthal: $85.3M
This Democratic Connecticut Senator is in the news these days for officially opposing sexual assault on U.S. campuses and within the military. Recently President Obama requested $11 million from the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies to fund a grant program for the campus reduction of sexual assault, domestic abuse and so on ($1.7 trillion is the new figure for what was spent on the war in Iraq). Blumenthal is on board with this request of the president’s; not surprising for a man who, in his role as Attorney General for Connecticut, has taken on Microsoft, big tobacco and the Environmental Protection Agency – after having, in his youth, been volunteer counsel to the NAACP.
3. Sen. Mark Warner: $96.3M
Another Virginia Democrat, Warner was Governor of Virginia from 2002 to 2006. He made most of his fortune in the 1980s from venture capital in the telecommunications industry, and is the founder of Columbia Capital. It was thought that he would run as a candidate for the 2008 presidential elections, but he did not, and chose the Senate bid over running for Vice-President. Warner must like things a bit quieter, as he makes wine from his 15 acres of grape vineyards, and gives the private label away at charity auctions.
2. Rep. Michael McCaul: $114.1M
One of only three Republicans in the top 10 here, McCaul is, not surprisingly, a Texan. Is this fact unsurprising because he’s a Republican? Or simply because he’s the second-wealthiest member of Congress, and everything’s bigger in Texas…unless (spoiler alert!) there’s a bigger Republican in California. This Representative was an attorney and then a federal prosecutor before his political career began. He is currently the Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, a position he has the experience to hold, after having been Chief of Counterterrorism and National Security for the US Attorney’s office in Texas. McCaul’s money comes mostly from his wife’s family.
1. Rep. Darrell Issa: $355.4M
This Republican Californian has been in Congress since 2001. Before that he was CEO of a company that manufactured automobile security and convenience products. This man’s life is rife with interesting dissonances and ironies. His father was Lebanese Orthodox Catholic, his mother was a Mormon of Czech and German descent, and he grew up in Ohio in a Jewish neighborhood where he once worked for a rabbi. Having been arrested and/or accused multiple times of grand-theft auto in his early adult life, including near the end of a promising military career, Issa made much of his fortune after foreclosing on a company that made car alarms – reverse “carma”?