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Congressional pockets get at least $150 million deeper

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The Capitol is seen in Washington, Monday morning, Sept. 23, 2013, with only a week left for Congress to pass a funding bill in order to avoid a government shutdown. The Republican-led House on Friday approved legislation to keep the government running but at the cost of wiping out the Affordable Care Act, popularly known at "Obamacare." Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has vowed to keep the health law intact despite Republicans' attempts. Credit: AP

Congress is at least $150 million richer, according to a new report.

For the Record aired “Beltway Nation” earlier this month highlighting the lucrative culture of waste, corruption and abuse of power in Washington, D.C. New numbers released this week illustrating the increasing wealth of members of Congress further demonstrate the opportunities for self-enrichment available to insiders of America’s political culture.

(Source: Shutterstock) The total financial gain averages between $300,000 to $3.9 million per lawmaker, to a new report. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Roll Call reported Tuesday that the combined minimum net worth of Congress jumped up to $2.1 billion dollars, an increase of more than $150 million since 2013. The numbers come from a Congressional Quarterly Roll Call analysis based on the financial disclosures filed last year by each member of Congress or delegate. The total financial gain averages out between $300,000 to $3.9 million per lawmaker, but as Roll Call points out, not unlike the average wealth spread across the rest of America, the deepest pockets are “concentrated at the top.”

“The top five lawmakers on the list had more than 37 percent of the combined minimum net worth reported of all 538 members and delegates,” Roll Call reported. “The minimum net worth of the 50 Richest was $1.7 billion, or more than 80 percent of the total for the entire Congress.”

The real sticker shock comes with this realization: this analysis is based on wide-ranging estimates. Congressional members aren’t required to get specific with their total wealth numbers; they can simple list ranges such as “between $1 and $5 million” or “more than $50 million.”

“The actual reported wealth of Congress would be significantly higher if Congress required members to disclose all of their assets and to disclose them with precision … disclosure rules also require lawmakers to list mortgages, which count against net worth, but not home values, which would be one of the biggest assets of many members,” Roll Call noted.

This sharp upward trend has continued since 2012 when – for the first time in its history – Congress had a majority of millionaires on the payroll, according to OpenSecrets.org, which tracks money in U.S. politics.

“It’s no surprise that the wealth of Congress continues to increase in this way,” Vivica Novak, editorial director for Open Secrets, told TheBlaze. “It’s a trajectory that has been going on for quite some time.”

Mark Leibovich, chief national correspondent for the New York Times Magazine, told For the Record that the growing wealth in Congress breeds a dangerous disconnect with the constituents the members are supposed to represent.

“It’s not sustainable, this level of revulsion for this capital and this level of self-satisfaction that has grown up here,” he said. “This level of wealth here [and] the relative lack of wealth in the rest of the country. I mean, I think at some point disconnect, you know, takes a toll and, and the comfortable are afflicted.”

Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter

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