By CQ Roll Call staff
WASHINGTON — They invested in an aquaculture business, a bank and good old blue chip stocks and bonds.
The richest members of Congress found myriad ways to get wealthier in 2013, CQ Roll Call’s annual survey of congressional wealth shows.
Many lawmakers’ portfolios shrugged off the effects of a government shutdown, the civil war in Syria and the botched rollout of the health care law to ride a wave that sent the Dow Jones industrial average to its biggest gain in 18 years.
The ten richest won’t set new standards for diversity. All are white. Two are women.
Although Republicans took the top two spots this year, Democrats filled out the rest of the top ten. The list is dominated by veteran members such as seven-term Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the wealthiest lawmaker, whose car-alarm fortune and high-yield bonds drove his net worth to more than $357 million and earned him the No. 1 spot for the second year in a row.
No. 3 on the list, Democratic Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, increased his net worth by more than 60 percent.
That’s not to say everyone prospered. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) registered a year-to-year drop-off in net worth of more than $20 million, though the actual decline could have been far less given the wide asset value ranges allowed by the reporting system, and an amendment he filed to his 2012 report.
Lawmakers are required to file annual disclosure forms revealing such details as stock market holdings, real estate investments, bank accounts, credit card balances, student loans and other assets and liabilities.
Their minimum net worth is determined by subtracting the total minimum value of all liabilities from the total minimum value of all assets.
The system provides an incomplete picture because valuations are reported in broad categories spanning millions of dollars, making it impossible to ascertain a lawmaker’s precise net worth unless he or she opts to voluntarily break down actual dollar amounts. Few do. Members also are exempted from disclosing the value of personal residences or federal retirement savings accounts.
What the forms do reveal is an unusual variety of ways to get rich, or to try.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), among the youngest members of the financial elite, has a stake of at least $1 million in the world’s only venture capital firm devoted to fish farming, Aquacopia, with more invested in Uber and Japanese senior housing.
The median household net worth in the United States stood at $68,828 in 2011, with 69 percent of households holding some form of debt, according to the most recent U.S. Census statistics.
The Ten Richest Members Of Congress:
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)
Net worth: $357.25 million
Minimum assets: $432.25 million
Minimum liabilities: $75 million
For the second year in a row, Issa tops the list as the richest member of Congress.
Issa lists seven high-yield bonds as being worth more than $50 million — the highest disclosure category. How much those bonds are actually worth is unknown; they could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars each.
But just as his wealth could be many times higher than the picture provided by his disclosure, it also could be far less. Issa maintains two liabilities valued at $75 million — one personal loan from Union Bank that is between $25 million and $50 million and another personal loan from Merrill Lynch that is listed in the highest category of $50 million. That loan could be many times more than Issa is obligated to report. His true rank on our list depends greatly on how much he actually owes to Merrill Lynch.
Before his election to Congress, the Californian made his fortune founding Directed Electronics — based in Vista, Calif. — which manufactures car alarms. Now, Issa appears to make his money through the bond market and high-end real estate.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX)
Net worth: $117.54 million
Minimum assets: $118.04 million
Minimum liabilities: $0.5 million
McCaul may be, according to his financial disclosure, the second-richest member of Congress, but he didn’t list a single asset in his name — not even a bank account worth at least $1,000. Instead, McCaul’s wealth is entirely connected to his wife, Linda McCaul, the daughter of Clear Channel Communications founder Lowry Mays.
Exactly how much money McCaul and his wife have is a mystery. Several of the holdings in his wife’s name are in the broad spousal asset category of $1 million or more. On his 2011 disclosure, McCaul listed many of those same assets as being worth at least $50 million — the highest category. In that year, his wealth was estimated to be at least $305 million, and even though his wealth has been calculated closer to $100 million for the past two years, there’s no reason to believe he has any less money now than he did in 2011.
But even if some assets are being dramatically undercounted, McCaul’s wealth is still staggering — as is the number of assets listed in his wife’s and children’s names. The McCaul family’s wealth is almost entirely invested in the stock market and in municipal bonds.
The family portfolio shows a wide-range of traditional stocks — AT&T, Wal-Mart, Berkshire Hathaway — as well as investments in a number of government bonds, with a special emphasis on investment projects in Texas.
Even with all the wealth, McCaul does maintain a mortgage debt of between $500,001 and $1,000,000 on his personal residence in Austin, Texas. It happens to be the only thing on his financial disclosure to which he is formally connected; it’s a joint liability with his wife.
Rep. John Delaney (D-MD)
Net worth: $111.92 million
Minimum assets: $113.99 million
Minimum liabilities: $2.07 million
One year after gaining notice as the most well-off congressional candidate elected in 2012, Delaney’s minimum net worth soared by almost 64 percent. He’s now the wealthiest Democrat in Congress — and the third-richest overall.
The self-made financier is the only current member who has been a chief executive of a publicly traded company, and he’s held that title at two businesses he created. The son of a unionized electrical worker, Delaney founded HealthCare Financial Partners as a young lawyer in 1993, which specialized in lending money to smaller medical firms. He sold his controlling interest six years later for more than half a billion dollars and used the profits to start CapitalSource of Chevy Chase, Md., which loans to small and midsize businesses that can’t get credit at good rates from bigger banks.
Although he stepped away from the bank’s day-to-day leadership before taking office, CapitalSource continues to be the principal font of Delaney’s riches. His stake in the firm, which topped $25 million the year he was elected, grew to exceed $50 million during his freshman year in the House.
A member of the Financial Services Committee, Delaney has a stake of between $5 million and $25 million in another suburban Maryland financial services firm he helped found: Alliance Partners, which specializes in helping small banks pool resources to invest in big projects. He also has investments of comparable significance in Congressional Bancshares Inc. of Bethesda, Md.; a hedge fund in San Francisco; an equity fund in New York and a money market account at Goldman Sachs. (The values of the last two assets jumped from the minimum $1 million range a year earlier.) He has smaller stakes in 16 other investment partnerships.
Delaney has more than $5 million on deposit with Wells Fargo and lesser balances at six other banks. A family trust owns stock in three dozen companies, from Airgas to Williams-Sonoma. He and the trust have also purchased more than 40 different municipal bonds, about a third of them issued in Maryland.
Last year, Delaney got an influx of cash by exercising $4.7 million in CapitalSource stock options, and his wife, April, sold more than $2.5 million of her shares. The money that would have more than paid for the Capitol Hill townhouse the couple recently bought (without a mortgage). The Delaneys live in Potomac, Md., a half-hour drive from the Capitol but just outside the boundaries of the sprawling district where he spent $2.3 million of his own money to get elected two years ago.
The congressman’s only major liabilities, valued between $1 million and $5 million, are his mortgage on that house and the investment capital he borrowed from a newly formed family trust 16 years ago.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
Net worth: $108.05 million
Minimum assets: $113.55 million
Minimum liabilities: $5.5 million
Rockefeller, an heir of the oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, makes Roll Call’s richest list in his last year in Congress, this year climbing up one spot with a minimum net worth of $108 million. That’s an increase of $25 million from last year. The leap is caused by one of his blind trusts increasing in value from the $25 million to the $50 million range.
Rockefeller’s wealth is concentrated in three separate blind trusts: the trusts at JPMorgan and Wells Fargo are each worth at least $50 million, and the third, at United National Bank in Charleston, W.Va., is worth at least $5 million. Because the highest category for disclosure is $50 million or more, Rockefeller’s assets from the JPMorgan and Wells Fargo trusts could be much higher than the minimum amount he was required to disclose. His total assets are worth at least $113 million, up from at least $89 million in 2013.
Recent transactions include the sale of property in D.C.’s Cleveland Park neighborhood by his spouse, Sharon Rockefeller. The five-bedroom, 3.5-bath home was not their primary residence, and the disclosure listed a value of at least $1 million. Sharon Rockefeller also owns more than $1 million in PepsiCo corporate securities stock, and she received compensation of more than $1,000 for serving on PepsiCo’s board.
Rockefeller listed only two liabilities on his disclosure form. The first is a 1998 demand loan from United National Bank in Charleston, W.Va., worth at least $5 million. The second is a 2013 mortgage worth at least $500,000 in Sharon Rockefeller’s name. The mortgage was for a New York City apartment as detailed on previous years’ forms. It was previously worth at least $1 million, indicating the Rockefellers have paid down part of it.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)
Net worth: $95.13 million
Minimum assets: $95.13 million
Minimum liabilities: $0
Virginia’s senior senator, who recently became the junior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, made an enormous fortune as a venture capitalist before he turned 40, which is about when he began spending some of his millions to launch his rapid rise in Virginia politics.
After taking a job out of law school as a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee, Warner started ventures in energy and real estate, but really hit it big in telecommunications. He convinced some investors to help him purchase cellular telephone licenses the government was selling for a relative song in the early 1980s and then staked a big and early claim in Nextel, which soon blossomed into one of the biggest wireless service providers. It was swallowed by Sprint Corp. a decade ago, by which point Warner had been state party chairman, staged one closer-than-expected bid for the Senate, had been elected governor and was being touted as a prime presidential prospect. Instead, he cruised into the Senate six years ago on a “radical centrist” platform and is the clear but not quite prohibitive favorite to win his second term this fall.
After big gains in his personal fortune the previous year, Warner’s net worth stayed flat in 2013. His minimum net worth decreased by $1 million since last year — a minuscule fraction of the $95.1 million total. Warner has no liabilities, and his assets remain largely tied up in blind trusts for the benefit of his family — portfolios over which he has no control and minimal awareness of the assets or transactions. The MRW Blind Trust is for the senator’s benefit. The LDC Blind Trust is for the benefit of his wife, Lisa Collis. Their children also have several hundred thousand dollars worth of assets in their trusts.
The senator’s most valuable investments are worth more than $5 million each. All five are part of his blind trust.
Warner sits on the board of directors of The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He is also on the board of the Collis Warner Foundation, Inc., the family’s charitable arm run by his wife. He reports no earned income from either position.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO)
Net worth: $73.56 million
Minimum assets: $80.09 million
Minimum liabilities: $6.53 million
The youngest lawmaker among the 10 wealthiest members of Congress, Polis has a diverse and unusual portfolio stocked with emerging growth and startup investments.
The Colorado Democrat’s assets include stakes of at least $1 million in the world’s only aquaculture venture capital firm, Aquacopia; the Colorado Internet startup Confluence Commons Inc. (to which he also extended a line of credit worth at least $5 million) and the AIP Japan Fund V, which invests in senior housing in that country. Polis also has a blind trust worth at least $25 million that he set up after being elected to Congress. It delivered more than $1 million of income last year.
Diverse real estate investments in Colorado and Japan yielded at least $480,000 in additional income. And Polis benefited from the run-up in the value of stock in the ride-share company Uber Inc., with a stake now worth at least $500,000.
Polis reported more than $6.5 million in liabilities, including a Merrill Lynch line of credit worth at least $5 million.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Net worth: $62.06 million
Minimum assets: $62.56 million
Minimum liabilities: $0.5 million
Blumenthal may have been the biggest loser year-to-year in Congress, with a minimum net worth that fell more than $20 million and dropped him a few places on the 50 Richest list. However, the Connecticut Democrat filed an amendment last October to his 2012 disclosure form concerning the trust of his wife, Cynthia, the daughter of New York real estate magnate Peter Malkin. The adjustment means 2013 may not have brought nearly as much hardship to the couple as it seems.
Blumenthal’s 2013 filing is speckled with private equity and hedge fund holdings. There’s also a real estate company in Sao Paulo, Brazil, multiple properties in midtown Manhattan and entities that leased and operated the Empire State Building. Blumenthal additionally lists at least $600,000 worth of gold held at JPMorgan.
The senator receives an annual pension for his 20 years of service as Connecticut’s attorney general before being elected in 2010, and he reported a single mortgage of $500,001 to $1 million as a liability.
Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA)
Net worth: $45.04 million
Minimum assets: $45.11 million
Minimum liabilities: $0.07 million
The freshman Democrat from San Diego remains among the dozen richest members for a second straight year. He reported minimum net worth of $45 million at the end of his first year in the House, an increase of less than 1 percent since his year as a candidate.
That’s thanks in part to the investments he made with the millions he earned as an environmental attorney in the 1990s representing businesses and government agencies in their regulatory disputes. But it’s also because his wife, Lynn Gorguze, has been successful at the helm of Cameron Holdings, a private equity firm focused on manufacturing enterprises established by her father, former Emerson Electric executive Vincent Gorguze. She holds at least $14 million in assets, mainly investments in mutual funds and manufacturing companies.
Peters, who’s in a tossup race for a second term in one of California’s most politically competitive districts, has so far donated about $72,000 to his campaign. He invested almost $3 million to oust GOP incumbent Brian Bilbray in 2012, and Peters clearly has the resources to spend that much and more this fall. He continues to invest heavily in municipal bonds, with $12.5 million in paper issued all across his home state, along with notes issued by local governments in nine other states and Puerto Rico.
The congressman also reported $21,000 in pension payments from the City of San Diego, where he was a councilman for eight years and a port commissioner for four years. He donated the retirement nest egg to the city’s public library.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Net worth: $43.72 million
Minimum assets: $43.72 million
Minimum liabilities: $0
Not much has changed for Feinstein and her husband, private equity magnate Richard Blum, except that the form published for 2013 did not show the $2 million in liabilities present a year ago.
Feinstein’s a classic case of one of the biggest faults in the reporting requirements: assets in Blum’s name may be reported in a broad category of more than $1 million, so the calculated minimum net worth may be a significant understatement.
Blum’s assets include holdings in Current Media, the company headed by former Vice President Al Gore that was sold to Al-Jazeera. He has significant holdings through Blum Capital Partners in an array of businesses, including the Carlton Hotel chain and OZ Fitness.
Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA)
Net worth: $37.89 million
Minimum assets: $37.89 million
Minimum liabilities: $0
DelBene saw her wealth increase substantially over the past year as the price of stock in Microsoft, where she and her husband both worked as executives, rose and they sold it off.
The Washington Democrat reported a minimum of $37.9 million in assets in 2014. That’s $14 million more than last year, when the freshman lawmaker first landed on the list. She is the second wealthiest women in Congress and is tops among first-term, female lawmakers.
She and her husband, Kurt, who left Microsoft last year and now oversees the federal government’s online health care enrollment website, HealthCare.gov, made at least $2.5 million last year by selling off their remaining stock in the technology giant. Not surprisingly, Kurt DelBene returned his federal salary to the U.S. Treasury.
The largest new asset the couple listed is their main residence worth at least $5 million in Medina, Wash., a tony enclave just outside of Seattle whose most famous resident is Microsoft founder Bill Gates. They do not hold a mortgage on the property.
Most of their other assets are spread across a variety of investment accounts, including two funds worth at least $5 million apiece. They also have several million dollars invested in both university and municipal bonds. DelBene lists no liabilities.
Photo: stanfordsis via Flickr