A Look At the Richest and Poorest Members of Congress

One South Florida voter wonders how multimillionaire politicians can relate to average citizens

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    NEWSLETTERS

    South Florida voter Caesar Vazquez wonders how multimillionaire politicians can relate to non-millionaire average citizens. (Published Thursday, Feb 9, 2012)

    Forty-seven percent of the members of Congress are millionaires. That’s according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which released its list of who's worth what in Congress.

    The three richest are California Congressman Darrell Issa, an electronics entrepreneur worth $448 million; Texas Representative Michael McCaul, who married into the Clear Channel communications family and has $380 million, and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, whose wife is heir to the Heinz fortune, with $232 million.

    South Florida voter Caesar Vazquez wonders how multimillionaire politicians can relate to non-millionaire average citizens.

    "They don’t understand what we are going through day to day pretty much. They live in their own little world, and we live in the real world," he said.

    He added that it does bother him.

    Other Florida voters, like Delio Nunez, offer a different opinion.

    "If they made their money ethically and they didn’t take advantage of their actual situations in whatever seat they’re sitting in, I’ve got no problem with that, by all means, in fact I’d like to see successful people. I’d love to see other people make as much money as them," Nunez said.

    Debt and paying off loans are things average Americans deal with on a regular basis, and the same goes for some of our respresentatives from South Florida.

    The study shows Weston Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz being $27,000 in the hole.   Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart is also reported in the red owing $32,000.  Broward/Palm Beach Congressman Alcee Hastings is the poorest member of Congress with $4.7 million of debt.

    Hastings told NBC Miami that lawyer fees from almost 10 years of legal challenges, including his being impeached when he was a judge in the 1980s, is the reason for the debt.

    Senator Bill Nelson is worth more than $3 million, and Senator Marco Rubio is worth $380,000.      Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen reports just under $1 million in wealth and Frederica Wilson is worth some $1.3 million.

    The average income in Congress rose 15 percent over the last six years, according to The New York Times.

    Sean Foreman, a political science professor at Barry University, said there's a reason why politicians are getting richer, unlike average Americans, whose net worth remained flat or even decreased the last few years.

    Members of Congress are privy to inside corporate and financial information and can legally engage in insider trading.

    "They are able to get sweetheart deals on real estate. They know policies that are going to take place in the future and so they take advantage of that by buying tracks of land and later on benefiting from those investments," Foreman said. "Those who are at the bottom of the rung, we can make of it that they are probably honest, that they haven't been involved in shady deals, that they haven't done things to enrich themselves."

    Congressional wealth is not a partisan issue. There are wealthy and not-so wealthy Democrats and Republicans.

    Many come to Congress to represent the average citizen – and leave Washington enjoying opportunities not available to most Americans.