Recession For Who????
WASHINGTON — Members of Congress are enjoying their own financial stimulus.

Despite a stubbornly sour national economy congressional members’ personal wealth collectively increased by more than 16 percent between 2008 and 2009, according to a new study by the Center for Responsive Politics of federal financial disclosures released earlier this year.

And while some members’ financial portfolios lost value, no need to bemoan most lawmakers’ financial lot: Nearly half of them -- 261 -- are millionaires, a slight increase from the previous year, the Center’s study finds. That compares to about 1 percent of Americans who lay claim to the same lofty fiscal status.

And of these congressional millionaires, 55 have an average calculated wealth in 2009 of $10 million or more, with eight in the $100 million-plus range.

“Few federal lawmakers must grapple with the financial ills -- unemployment, loss of housing, wiped out savings -- that have befallen millions of Americans,” said Sheila Krumholz, the Center for Responsive Politics’ executive director. “Congressional representatives on balance rank among the wealthiest of wealthy Americans and boast financial portfolios that are all but unattainable for most of their constituents.
In 2009, the median wealth of a U.S. House member stood at $765,010, up from $645,503 in 2008. The median wealth of a U.S. senator was nearly $2.38 million, up from $2.27 million in 2008.

For all members of Congress regardless of chamber, median wealth in 2009 reached $911,510, up from $785,515 in 2008. This spike in personal wealth represents a notable rebound from the period between 2007 and 2008, when overall congressional wealth slipped by more than 5 percent. Federal lawmakers’ personal wealth climaxed in 2007 -- the pinnacle of nearly a decade’s worth of steady asset value expansion.

By law, members of Congress are only required to report their wealth and liabilities in broad ranges. It’s therefore impossible to precisely determine how much value their assets are worth, or have gained or lost. Federal law also requires that members of Congress detail any assets owned or debts owed by their spouses and dependent children.

The Center for Responsive Politics determines the minimum and maximum possible asset values for each member of Congress to calculate a member's average estimated wealth. Sometimes, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars separate a lawmaker’s minimum calculated wealth from his or her maximum calculated wealth.
When averaging lawmakers’ minimum and maximum potential wealth for 2009, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) tops the list with holdings exceeding $303.5 million. Issa (pictured right) is followed by a fellow Californian, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), with $293.4 million. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) places third at $238.8 million.

Issa, Harman and Kerry realized wealth gains of nearly 21 percent, 19.8 percent and 14.3 percent respectively.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Rep. Vernon Buchanan (R-Fla.) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) round the list of lawmakers who in 2009 recorded an average wealth of at least $100 million.

In the House, there are five Democrats and five Republicans among the 10 wealthiest members. On the Senate side, six Democrats and four Republicans rank among the top 10 wealthiest.On the other end of the wealth spectrum is Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), whose average calculated wealth for 2009 is a bank-busting -$4.73 million. But because of the broad ranges lawmakers may use to report their assets and liabilities, Hastings (pictured right) could be even deeper in the red -- -$7.35 million at worst -- or a more minor anti-millionaire at -$2.11 million in the hole.

Reps. John Salazar (D-Colo.) and Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) find themselves in similar situations with average calculated wealth well below $0. But while their minimum potential wealth each dips into -$4 million territory, their maximum potential wealth rockets them each above the $3 million mark.

Matters appear more straightforward -- and grim -- for Rep. Louis Gohmert Jr. (R-Texas), who’s minimum and maximum calculated wealth both fall into six-figure negative territory. Gohmert’s’ average calculated wealth for 2009 is -$150,001.

Reps. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.), Artur Davis (D-Ala.), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) aren’t in much better shape, as both their minimum and maximum wealth values appear with minus symbols.

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