How many US Congressmen are millionaires

It's an astonishing number: According to a recent study, there are more millionaires in the US Congress than non-millionaires. This has been calculated by the independent Center for Responsive Politics from the official income statements of the members of parliament and senators. With a net worth of $ 464 million, Republican Darrell Issa is the richest man in Congress - he got rich with a company that makes car alarm systems.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 268 of the current 534 congressmen are millionaires - and on average, Democrats ($ 1.04 million) are a tad richer than their conservative counterparts ($ 1 million). The wealth of US politicians has been growing for a long time, because in America a well-filled bank account is the best prerequisite for political office.

Unlike in Germany, the parties in America do not play a decisive role in the financing of election campaigns - there is no government reimbursement of election campaign costs there. So US politicians see themselves more as lone fighters and political entrepreneurs who organize their own campaign and also have to finance it. So if you want to place ads on television and radio, you need a lot of money.

It can even be said quite precisely how much has to be invested in order to have a chance at all: those who wanted to join the House of Representatives needed just under $ 1.7 million in the last election in 2012. The politicians who won one of the 33 open Senate seats in 2012 put an average of 10.5 million into their campaign.

When MPs are elected, their thoughts continue to turn to checks, donations, and remittances. Because a lot of money has to be collected again for re-election. "Today an MP spends more than half of his time with fundraising," said Craig Holman of the non-governmental organization Public Citizen in an interview with (more on the role of money in US politics in this blog post).

The money obsession of MPs and senators has two consequences: If you have to constantly call possible donors or meet with lobbyists, you have less time to work on laws - or to talk to people in your own constituency and more about their problems to experience.

And even if it seems long overdue that both Democrats and Republicans want to discuss poverty and the gap between rich and poor in the election year 2014, this is happening on a special level: the vast majority of congressmen know the problems of the unemployed or the working poorwho get by with multiple jobs, only remotely.

But one thing must not be forgotten: the financial circumstances of the MPs and their challengers are known to the American voters - the system is transparent in this regard. Apparently, most Americans are more confident that wealthy candidates can do something for their constituency.

There is a mixture of anger and resignation when Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics comments on the new report: "There is no change in the desire of Americans to elect wealthy politicians to represent them in Washington."

Link tips:

  • The full study of the millionaires in Congress can be found here.
  • This article describes the role money plays in America's politics and how the "Citizens United" ruling changed the election campaign.