Changes In Net Worth Of U.S. Senators And Representatives (Personal Gain Index)

On July 24, 2014, Sarah Rosier and the Congress team write on Ballot Pedia:

For the first time in history, the majority of America’s elected officials in Washington, D.C. are millionaires.[1][2] At the same time, 50 percent of Americans cannot afford to spend $5,000 in an emergency.[3]

The median American citizen[4] saw his or her household net worth decrease from 2004 to 2012 by an annual rate of -0.94 percent, while members of Congressexperienced a median annual increase of 1.55 percent. Congress saw a total increase of $316.5 million in assets held by all members in the study.[5]

This page is about changes in net worth of U.S. Senators and Representativesduring their time in office. The data goes from 2004 through 2012.

This is the first part of the Personal Gain Index. The Personal Gain Index is a two-part study that examines the extent to which members of the U.S. Congress have individually prospered during their tenure as public servants.


In this study, we look at changes in net worth during an incumbent’s time in office. This allows us to:

  • See which incumbents had the largest gains in net worth
  • Compare the gains in net worth experienced by congressional incumbents with what happened to the net worth of the people they represent.

For more detailed information on the actual net worth of members of Congress, rather than the growth of their net worth, please see: Net worth of United States Senators and Representatives.

Methodology and notes

See also: Personal Gain Index (U.S. Congress)

Researchers used data provided by OpenSecrets.org to calculate the change in net worth of each congressional incumbent from either 2004 or the year he or she was first elected, if that year was after 2004.[6]

The tables and graphs on this page show some of the highlights of the study. The change in net worth information has also been added to each of Ballotpedia’s profiles of the 535 congressional incumbents. The data also includes some former members, whose net worth would have been calculated at the end of their term in the 112th Congress. The data used to calculate changes in net worth may include changes resulting from assets gained through marriage, inheritance, changes in family estates and/or trusts, changes in family business ownership and many other variables unrelated to a member’s behavior in Congress. Because many members have been in office for longer than the eight years this study illustrates, the real change in net worth each member sees after initially taking office may be higher than the numbers in this data.

Some incumbents experienced a net loss in net worth. When this is the case, it is expressed with a negative percent.

For the full set of data, please visit our Google spreadsheet here.

Congressional net worth

See also: Household net worth (Member of Congress)

Members of the United States Congress and candidates for Congress are required to file an annual Personal Financial Disclosure (PFD) on or before May 15 of every year.[7]

This requirement also extends to candidates for federal office, senior congressional staff, nominees for executive branch positions, Cabinet members, the president and vice president and Supreme Court justices. This was set by the “Ethics in Government Act of 1978.” Additionally, anyone who manages political campaign funds for a U.S. Senator must file.[8]

This study includes figures for the 113th Congress’ freshman members because despite their terms beginning in 2012 they were required to filed the PFD during their candidacy in 2011.

As a starting point, congressional financial disclosure forms use value ranges, rather than precise amounts, when reporting assets and liabilities. OpenSecrets.org gathers this information to build a range of potential values. For instance, if three assets are listed at a value range of $1,001-$15,000, the total range of assets would be listed as a minimum of $3,003 (3 X $1,001) and a maximum value would be $45,000 (3 X $15,000). OpenSecrets combines all assets and liability to form a total potential range of values, and then provides an average value as the best guess of each individual’s net worth.[9] The earliest average was then adjusted for inflation. This data affords constituents the ability to see the real increase (or decrease) of each member’s net worth.

The disclosures required on the PFD include:

Exclusions in data

From OpenSecrets.org:

Note that the ethics law does not require filers to report property, including personal residences, that is not held for investment purposes and does not produce income. The STOCK Act requires that the terms of all mortgages, including those on non-income producing personal residences, be disclosed. Mortgages reported on properties that were not listed as assets were excluded from the wealth calculations, but are displayed on our profiles of the corresponding officials. Even though they weren’t required to do so, some filers did list the value of their personal residences; when they did, we included the information in our totals and detailed listings. Filers are required to report detailed listings and values of holdings that underlie an account. They occasionally also report the combined value of the account, in which case the combined value is omitted from calculations.[19][20]

American citizen net worth

See also: Personal Gain Index: Household net worth (American citizen)

An “American Citizen” figure was calculated in order to allow us to compare the change in household net worth of a member of Congress to the changes in net worth over the same period experienced by the average citizen.

The Census Bureau, the source of the average citizen data, breaks down net worth into wealth categories. One of these categories is “equity in own home,” but Ballotpedia did not factor the average citizen’s home equity into this figure because the Congressional net worth does not require members to report property (including personal residences) that is not used for investment purposes.[21]

Net worth increases

Top 100

This chart shows the average yearly percentage change in net worth of the 100 congressional incumbents whose calculated net worth[22] divided by the number of years studied was the highest.[23]

  • The average increase in net worth in the Top 100 was 114% per year.[24]
  • Of the “Top 100”, 56 are Republicans, 43 are Democrats and one is an Independent.
    • In total, the study looks at 320 Republicans, 296 Democrats and two Independents.

Rep. Chellie Pingree‘s dramatic net worth increase is due to her marriage. Because of this, Ballotpedia removed Pingree when calculating the averages for this study, while continuing to list her in the chart.

The study is able to have figures for freshman members of the 113th Congress from 2011, despite their terms beginning in 2012, because they were required to file Personal Finance Disclosure forms during their candidacies in 2011.

The Top 100 table includes a handful of politicians who left office during or after 2012.

Average percentage increases

Yearly average gains

As illustrated in the “Top 100” chart above, the average yearly percentage gain was found by dividing each member’s total net worth growth percentage by the number of years included in the calculation. For example, Sen. John McCain would have his net worth percentage divided by eight (2004-2012), since those are the years for which data is available for his net worth. For someone like Sen. Ted Cruz, however, his total net worth increase would be the same as his average yearly net worth increase, since the only available data is the increase between 2011 and 2012.

The average member saw his or her net worth increase by an average of 15.4 percent per year.

PGI percentage6.jpg

For the purpose of our comparison to the median American citizen data below, the median congressional increase was 1.55 percent per year.

Winner’s Circle

When the members who lost money during this time period are removed from the calculation,[35] the growth in wealth among the “wealth gainers” stands out. If a member gains, expect the gain to be large.
The average yearly percentage increase for those members who increased their net worth was 43.6 percent.

PGI percentage8.jpg

Millionaire’s Club

Those in Congress who held assets above the median net worth of $1 million in 2012 also saw a hefty annual percentage increase.
Congressional millionaires had an average yearly percentage increase of 23.9 percent.

PGI percentage9.jpg

Total average gains

As compared to the yearly average gains, the total average gains percentage change looks at the total change between the first year data is available for each member[36] and the 2012 data. Although this data is harder to compare member-to-member because the starting year may be different, it still provides insight as to who experienced the most drastic total increases. The average change in net worth for the members in this study was 72.6 percent.

PGI percentage.jpg

Ten greatest overall gains

The ten current senators and representatives listed below experienced the highest overall net worth gains (by percentage) from 2004-2012.[37]

Ten greatest overall losses

The ten current senators and representatives listed here experienced the greatest declines in net worth (by percentage) from 2004-2012.[37]

Congress compared to American citizens

See also: Personal Gain Index: Household net worth (American citizen)

This report compared average and median data, and in both cases the growth of congressional net worth significantly outpaced that of the American citizen.

Congressional net worth figures are a relatively small data set,[38] so Ballotpedia used average percentage changes throughout the study (adjusted as needed for outliers)[39] to best illustrate the average growth of wealth of members of Congress. The data for American citizens is a large sampling of the population that includes many households on either end of the distribution (high or low wealth), so median numbers were also included.

An average value is calculated by adding all the observations and dividing by the number of observations. A medianis the middle value of a list.[40] The median figure can be beneficial in circumstances, like this one, where the high net worth of the wealthiest Americans can skew the average. Both the average and median for congressional and American citizen net worth growth are provided below. For a direct comparison to each individual member’s figures (as shown on his or her Ballotpedia profile), the yearly median change will correspond with each member’s average yearly change.

Median figures

Between 2004-2012, the median American household[41] saw an inflation-adjusted decrease of assets from $18,990 in 2004[42] to $17,557 in 2012. This was an inflation-adjusted annual percentage change of -0.94 from 2004 to 2012. Note that in order to have an apples-to-apples comparison between the household net worth of U.S. Congressmen and that of the American citizen, the value of equity in the citizen’s personal residence was not taken into account in calculating the net worth of the average citizen, since the value of the personal residence of a Congressman is not included in their disclosure of their household net worth.

Average figures

Between 2004-2012, the average American household[41] saw an inflation-adjusted slight increase of assets from $204,957 in 2004[42] to $264,963 in 2012. This was an inflation-adjusted annual percentage change of 3.7 percent from 2004 to 2012.

  • As stated in the median section above, in order to have an apples-to-apples comparison between the household net worth of U.S. Congressmen and that of the American citizen, the value of equity in the citizen’s personal residence was not taken into account in calculating the net worth of the average citizen, since the value of the personal residence of a Congressman is not included in their disclosure of their household net worth.

Freshman increases

A limitation to the data set is that the whole picture of wealth growth while in Congress is unavailable for those members who entered office prior to 2004.

For example, Sen. John McCain, who has been in Congress since 1982, shows a total net worth decrease of -74.5 percent during the period of 2004-2012. However, what the study is missing is how much he was worth in 1982 compared to 2012.

For this reason, Ballotpedia studied the freshmen members of both the 113th Congress (which began in January 2012) and the 112th Congress (which began in January 2010). Although the 2012 freshmen only saw moderate growth after one year in office, the growth for the 112th freshmen was staggering. One could say that the new retirement plan is to get elected and then re-elected (that is the key) to Congress and you will be set for life.

113th Congress freshmen

From 2011 to 2012, the average net worth change of a freshman member of the 113th Congress in one year was:

PGI percentage2.jpg

The study is able to have figures for freshman members of the 113th Congress from 2011, despite their terms beginning in 2012, because they were required to file Personal Finance Disclosure forms during their candidacies in 2011.

The 2012 “Freshman 15”

The following 15 freshman senators and representatives of the 113th Congress saw their net worth increase the most out of their incoming class of new members:

112th Congress freshmen

From 2009 to 2012, the average net worth change of a freshman member of the 112th Congress in three years[55]was:

PGI percentage3.jpg

The 2010 “Freshman 15”

The following 15 freshman representatives of the 112th Congress (no senators made the top 15 list) saw their net worth increase the most out of their incoming class of new members:

Amount of increase

The amount of assets held by individual members increased by a total of $316.5 million between 2004 (or later, depending on when the member joined Congress) and 2012.[56]

PGI percentage10.jpg

See also

External links

Footnotes

  1. Jump up OpenSecrets, “Millionaires’ Club: For First Time, Most Lawmakers are Worth $1 Million-Plus,” January 9, 2014
  2. Jump up Open Secrets, “Personal Financial Disclosures”
  3. Jump up Edelman Financial, “Could You Come Up with $5,000 in an Emergency?” June 21, 2014
  4. Jump up As calculated by median net worth data.
  5. Jump up $316,491,032.00 to be precise.
  6. Jump up All data relating to the average net worth of individual members of congress from OpenSecrets.org and The Center for Responsive Politics is posted under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
  7. Jump up Members of Congress are permitted to ask for a three-month extension.
  8. Jump up Legistorm, “About LegiStorm’s Financial Disclosures”
  9. Jump up OpenSecrets, “About the Personal Finances Data & CRP’s Methodology”
  10. Jump up Outside, earned income that exceeds $200 must be reported. (Note that elected officials and senior staff may only earn outside income up to $26,100 a year. Some exceptions apply; for example, in the case of previously approved income and some book royalties and advances.
  11. Jump up Elected officials and senior staff are prohibited from receiving honoraria for speeches, articles or appearances. In lieu of an honoraria, they may designate an amount to be donated to charity. Any such honoraria must be reported on the PFD by source and amount.
  12. Jump up Assets held for investment or the production of income that were worth more than $1,000 at the end of the calendar year, must be reported.
  13. Jump up Filers must disclose the purchase, sale or exchange of any assets that amount to more than $1,000 in the calendar year in question.
  14. Jump up Any liability or loan where the filer, his or her spouse or his or her dependent children owed more than $10,000 at any time during the calendar year.
  15. Jump up Filers must disclose positions they hold with non-governmental organizations, except for their membership in religious, social, fraternal or political organizations.
  16. Jump up Conditions for re-employment, severance payments, buyout agreements, profit-sharing plans.
  17. Jump up Travel and travel-related reimbursements from a single source, valued at more than $305 in aggregate for the year and connected to official business and the source, dates, and purpose of the travel and itinerary.
  18. Jump up Those from personal acquaintances, contributions to legal defense funds and commemorative items.
  19. Jump up http://www.opensecrets.org/pfds/methodology.php
  20. Jump up Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  21. Jump up OpenSecrets.org, “About the Personal Finances Data & CRP’s Methodology,” accessed July 8, 2014
  22. Jump up This figure represents the total percentage growth from either 2004 (if the member entered office in 2004 or earlier) or his or her first year in office (as noted in the chart below).
  23. Jump up The period studied is 2004-2012, or from the year the incumbent took office, if it was after 2004.
  24. ↑ Jump up to:24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 This calculation excludes Chellie Pingree.
  25. Jump up This number was found by dividing each member’s total net worth growth percentage by the number of years included in the calculation. For example, for Chellie Pingree, her total net worth increase was divided by four, since it was calculated for four years (2008-2012). If the incumbent had been in office earlier than 2004, it would still only be divided by eight (2004-2012), since those are the only years for which we have data.
  26. Jump up Pingree’s dramatic increase in net worth after her 2008 election was due to her 2010 marriage to billionaire Donald Sussman.
  27. Jump up Gov. Pence left Congress in 2012 to become the governor of Indiana.
  28. Jump up Rep. Young passed away on October 18, 2013.
  29. Jump up $3,403,112, to be precise.
  30. Jump up This number was found by dividing each member’s total net worth growth percentage by the number of years included in the calculation. For example, for Chellie Pingree, her total net worth increase was divided by four, since it was calculated for four years (2008-2012). If the incumbent had been in office earlier than 2004, it would still only be divided by eight (2004-2012), since those are the only years for which we have data.
  31. Jump up Pingree’s dramatic increase in net worth after her 2008 election was due to her 2010 marriage to billionaire Donald Sussman.
  32. Jump up Gov. Pence left Congress in 2012 to become the governor of Indiana.
  33. Jump up Rep. Young passed away on October 18, 2013.
  34. Jump up Percentage increase is not meaningful for this candidate as the initial average net worth is less than or equal to zero.
  35. Jump up I.e. had a negative percentage change.
  36. Jump up The data starts in 2004 for any member who started either in 2004 or prior, or at a later year for anyone who was elected after 2004.
  37. ↑ Jump up to:37.0 37.1 Or from the year the incumbent was first elected, if that year was after 2004.
  38. Jump up 618 members are included in the congressional data, compared to the millions sampled in the census data.
  39. Jump up Such as Chellie Pingree.
  40. Jump up “Medians are often used when data are skewed, meaning that the distribution is uneven. In that case, a few very high numbers could, for instance, change the average, but they would not change the median.” Bandolier, “Mean, Median, Mode,” accessed July 15, 2014
  41. ↑ Jump up to:41.0 41.1 The citizen net worth data was calculated from figures from the United States Census Bureau. In keeping with the method of calculating congressional net worth, home equity was withheld from the figure. The figures reflect the median household holdings.
  42. ↑ Jump up to:42.0 42.1 The 2004 figure was adjusted for inflation to 2012 dollars.
  43. Jump up This percentage reflects the median annual percentage growth of all members of Congress.
  44. Jump up As stated above, this is the total change in the amount of assets the median American household had from 2004 to 2012 divided by the eight year span.
  45. Jump up To ensure consistency among data sets, home equity was withheld in a similar fashion to primary residences not being counted as assets for congressional data.
  46. Jump up Because 2012 household net worth figures had not been released as of publication date, this figure represents the 2011 numbers adjusted for inflation. These estimates assume no change in net worth between 2011 and 2012. The 2012 figure will be updated when available.
  47. Jump up Census figures were unavailable for the raw, excluding home equity figure — this figure is an estimate calculated by applying the 2005 ratio of net worth excluding home equity to the net worth figure available for 2004 (which included home equity).
  48. Jump up For a direct comparison to each individual member’s figures (as shown on his or her Ballotpedia profile), the yearly change will correspond with each member’s average yearly change.
  49. Jump up This percentage reflects the average annual percentage growth of all members of Congress.
  50. Jump up As stated above, this is the total change in the amount of assets the average American household had from 2004 to 2012 divided by the eight year span.
  51. Jump up To ensure consistency among data sets, home equity was withheld in a similar fashion to primary residences not being counted as assets for congressional data.
  52. Jump up Because 2012 household net worth figures had not been released as of publication date, this figure represents the 2011 numbers adjusted for inflation. These estimates assume no change in net worth between 2011 and 2012. The 2012 figure will be updated when available.
  53. Jump up Census figures were unavailable for the raw, excluding home equity figure — this figure is an estimate calculated by applying the 2005 ratio of net worth excluding home equity to the net worth figure available for 2004 (which included home equity).
  54. Jump up For a direct comparison to each individual member’s figures (as shown on his or her Ballotpedia profile), the yearly change will correspond with each member’s average yearly change.
  55. Jump up From their 2009 required candidacy filing to 2012.
  56. Jump up Because many members went from a negative net worth to a positive net worth during the years calculated, this figure is an important figure because the total asset increase can figure in all members’ asset growth, including the members who did not have a meaningful percentage change due to increasing from a negative to a positive net worth.
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Gary Reber Comments: There increasingly seems to be very little belief that the greater good comes from creating policy that raises up the majority of people!

There seems to be virtually no discussion on social media of policy solutions, but instead just complaining about this action or that action, with no offerings as to what should be done in terms of policies and goals.

One is branded a socialist or communist if you offer up policies that build the middleclass and those in need by empowering them to become wealth-creating, income-producing capital owners ! Never mind the 1 percent has been buying our government to do the same for themselves and concentrate more capital ownership among themselves exclusively – not just hoping or expecting the political class does act responsibly! The political class is totally broken and bought…and thats dangerous! To ignore that is stupid as power always follows property!

One fact exists. As more people fall into the paycheck to paycheck survival mode our society will continue to unravel! We have seen throughout history what happens when social wellbeing is destroyed! We lack leaders of economic and social justice who can command national media attention. Instead, the  majority are bafoons in congress and the sooner everyone understands what is going on the better!

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