At Least Six Millionaires to Take Senate Oaths Tuesday
There's no shortage of statistics to show that Congress no longer reflects the demographics of the nation it represents. That's especially true when it comes to personal finances. Of the 13 newly elected members of the Senate to be sworn in Tuesday, at least six are millionaires. That's a conservative estimate and the proportion is almost certainly higher.
Their arrival in the Senate comes as the wealth gap between the nation's top 20 percent of earners—including many members of Congress—and every other income group in America has reached its widest point in at least three decades, according to a Pew Research Center study released in December. Pew also found in a report released in October that the issue of income inequality is of growing importance to the American public. Forty-six percent of respondents said it's a “very big problem,” while 32 percent said its a “moderately” big problem.
While that might suggest Congress should make the issue a priority, underlying figures show why the gap between the public and its elected class on the need for action may actually grow: Only 19 percent of Republicans see income inequality as a major problem, compared with 59 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of independents. All but one of the incoming freshman senators are Republicans.
To identify the wealthiest new senators, Bloomberg Politics reviewed the annual disclosures of financial assets and liabilities that are required of federal candidates. Those forms offer only broad ranges for valuation, making it impossible to determine exact figures.
To rank the new senators, Bloomberg Politics used the same methodology employed by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group in Washington that tracks money in politics. That method uses the midpoint of the range of net worth reported to produce these rankings.
1. David Perdue
Perdue, a former CEO of Dollar General Corp. and Reebok, funded much of his own Senate campaign against a crowded Republican primary field and Democrat Michelle Nunn. His assets fall between $16.9 million and $47.1 million, with a net worth midpoint of $31.6 million. His stock portfolio is broad and deep, ranging from Apple Inc., to Xylem Inc., a water technology company. The only liability Perdue lists is a $250,000 to $500,000 margin loan with Goldman Sachs Wealth Management. That suggests his multimillion-dollar home on Georgia's Sea Island is paid off. Going to Washington will mean a hit to Perdue's income stream. His $174,000 salary as a senator will only put a small dent in the $716,081 in compensation he'll lose from stepping down from board of director positions he's had with four companies, including Alliant Energy Corp. in Madison, Wis.
2. Steve Daines
Daines, who is moving from the House to the Senate, earned a chemical engineering degree from Montana State. He's had a varied career, including working for his father's construction business and Procter & Gamble. His assets fall somewhere in the range from $7.5 million to $33 million. By far, his biggest asset is the Genesis business park in Bozeman that he valued at between $5 million and $25 million. The midpoint of his net worth range is $18.7 million.
3. Mike Rounds
Rounds was South Dakota's governor for eight years and the majority leader of the state Senate for six years before that. He made his money in insurance and real estate. The midpoint of his net worth range is about half of Perdue's, but he still does quite well, with assets of between $5.7 million and $27 million. That kind of money goes a long way anywhere, including in South Dakota, which is roughly average for cost of living when compared to the 49 other states. Rounds lists just one liability worth more than $10,000: a line of credit for between $100,000 and $250,000 with First National Bank in Pierre, S.D.
4. Thom Tillis
Tillis, a former partner at business consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers, lists assets worth between $3.8 million and $14.2 million. His home and a life insurance policy are his two biggest assets, with each valued between $1 million and $5 million. The outgoing speaker of the North Carolina House has a bit more debt than his fellow senators-elect in the top wealth tier. Tillis has a mortgage and home equity line of credit—both at 2.75 percent interest—that combined are between $350,000 and $750,000.
5. Gary Peters
Peters, the only Democrat in the newly elected crop of senators, is a three-term House member. He's also been a financial adviser, lieutenant commander in the Naval Reserve and state lottery commissioner. He holds an expansive portfolio of stocks, bonds and certificates of deposit that includes Dow Chemical Co., AT&T Inc. and Bank of America Corp. The mid-point for his range of net worth is almost $3.2 million. Peters lists two mortgages totaling between $110,000 and $265,000 as his only liabilities. One is for a home equity loan and the other is for a “D.C. Co-Op.”
6. Dan Sullivan
Sullivan, Alaska's former state attorney general and natural resources commissioner, tends more toward investing in mutual funds than individual stocks. His only liability is a mortgage valued between $50,000 and $100,000. The mid-point of his net worth is almost $2.7 million.
7. Shelley Moore Capito
Capito, a congresswoman who will be the first female senator from West Virginia, has a net worth midpoint of $1.4 million. Her most valuable assets are shares in four 401(k) mutual funds, shares in Citigroup and a “residential rental” in Lexington, Va. Those assets are all each listed as worth between $100,000 and $250,000. She also lists an Edgewood Country Club membership valued at $1,000 to $15,000. Capito has nine liabilities, including a home equity loan of $50,000 to $100,000 and a mortgage on a Washington residence of $250,000 to $500,000. Her total liabilities fall somewhere between $870,000 and $1.8 million. That means she could technically have a negative net worth of about $500,000, if her assets fell at the low end of the range and her liabilities fell at the high end. Only one other incoming Senate freshman, Daines, lists a higher maximum liability total.
8. Bill Cassidy
Cassidy, an associate professor of medicine at Louisiana State University who joined the U.S. House in 2009, has a net worth midpoint of almost $1.4 million. Virtually all of his assets are in retirement accounts. He lists two mortgages totaling between $350,000 and $750,000 as his only liabilities.
9. Ben Sasse
Sasse, the outgoing president at Midland University and a former assistant secretary of health and human services under President George W. Bush, has a midpoint net worth just shy of $1.1 million. He lists mostly mutual funds, inside and outside of retirement accounts, and a rental property worth between $500,000 and $1 million in suburban Washington as his main assets. His only liability is a mortgage from an Omaha bank valued at between $250,000 and $500,000.
10. Joni Ernst
Ernst, a state lawmaker and lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard, has a net worth midpoint of about $470,000. She lists mostly mutual funds inside and outside of retirement accounts as her main assets. The only liability Ernst lists is a $15,000 to $50,000 loan for a “camper” from a bank in Red Oak, Iowa.
11. Tom Cotton
Cotton, who will be moving from the House to the Senate, has a net worth between $115,000 and $300,000, with a midpoint of about $207,000. His disclosure report is just three pages long and shows his main financial asset is $100,000 to $250,000 in a checking account.
12. James Lankford
Lankford is a two-term congressman from Oklahoma who also is a Baptist minister. He hasn't gotten rich doing either, apparently. His net worth falls between negative $167,000 and positive $280,000, with a midpoint of about $56,000. Virtually all of his financial assets are in retirement accounts and he lists two liabilities, a mortgage for $100,000 to $250,000 and a car loan for $15,000 to $50,000.
13. Cory Gardner
Gardner, a former Colorado congressman and son of a tractor salesman, may very well have more debts than assets. His assets fall in a range from $94,000 to $410,000, while his liabilities are between $180,000 and $450,000. His debts include $15,000 to $50,000 for a federal student loan, as well as $165,000 to $400,000 in mortgages for a residence and condominium.