Eleven of the 50 richest members of the U.S. Congress have ties to the growing technology and new media sector, including the top two spots on the list, according to a report published today by Roll Call.
The majority of those who comprise the exclusive list derive their income from real estate holdings and trust funds or their spouse is the one with the money. Another commonality on the list is that there is little to no diversity in terms of race or ethnicity (gender either when looking at the shortened tech/media list). And while many average Americans feel they are financially worse off than they were a year ago, most of the members on Roll Call’s list — not just the tech media types — have actually seen their wealth grow (substantially) over the past year.
More to the point, the fact that 11 members on the list have technology and media ties is worth noting considering the reliance President Barack Obama is placing on this sector to produce new jobs. Technology media companies are also currently under several congressional and regulatory reviews as well, so it only makes sense to know which lawmakers may have some general — or more compelling — interest in the field.
One of the newspapers covering Washington D.C. politics and policy, Roll Call states it determines the richest lawmakers by adding up the minimum value of total assets reported by each Member on their annual financial disclosures and subtracts the minimum liabilities. The publication also calculates the percent change in wealth based on disclosure forms from the previous year. An asset valued at $5 million to $25 million is counted at the lesser amount, as is a liability valued at $1 million to $5 million.
The wealthiest members with connections to the tech media industry are:
#1 Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, $294.21 million, +298.9% change: Currently serving his fourth term in Congress, Mr. McCaul has the distinction of being the richest lawmaker in Washington, at least on paper. Most of McCaul’s wealth is held by his wife, Linda McCaul, the daughter of Clear Channel Communications CEO and founder, Lowry Mays. The McCauls also benefit from the ever popular ‘generational wealth transfer,’ according to Roll Call. On his financial disclosure, McCaul listed a new asset — the Linda McCaul Descendant Trusts — owned by his wife that was valued at more than $50 million.
#2 Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., $220.40 million, +37.7% change: Before his election to Congress in 2001, Mr. Issa made his fortune founding Directed Electronics. Based in Vista, Calif., it manufactured car alarms. Now his wealth is concentrated in two companies that own and operate industrial properties in California: DEI LLC and Greene Properties, Inc.
#5 Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., $76.30 million, +8.7% change: Mr. Warner earned his millions as a telecom mogul. He co-founded Nextel Communications, a nationwide push to talk mobile communications system that is now part of Sprint. This year Mr. Warner saw his wealth grow by more than $6 million, thanks in part to his stake in Columbia Capital Equity Partners. The Alexandria, Va.-based venture capital firm invests in wireless, broadband, media and enterprise information technology. Formed in 1989, the franchise has invested and funded more than 130 global companies in core markets, according to its website.
#6 Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., $65.91 million, +16.7% change: A self-described Internet Executive, Mr. Polis co-founded his first company, American Information Systems, while still a student at Princeton. An internet access, web hosting and application service provider, the company predated his two other successful ventures: bluemountain.com, an online greeting card website that he sold to Excite@Home in a deal worth $780 million and an online florist company, ProFlowers, that has since expanded to become Provide Commerce, Inc., acquired in 2006 by Liberty Media Corporation. Polis also founded the Jared Polis Foundation, with a mission of creating opportunities for success through education and technology. The foundation refurbishes and donates computers to schools and nonprofits among other initiatives.
#7 Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., $55.07 million, 10.8% change: Mr. Lautenberg founded the data-processing company, ADP, but he also maintains two blind trusts that accounts for the lion’s share of his wealth: one valued at $5 million to $25 million and another at $1 million to $5 million. The other sizable portion of his riches comes from his wife, Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg, and her expansive stake in New York real estate.
#22 Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., $11.60 million, +182.9% change: Mr. Franks founded an oil and gas exploration firm where the bulk of his money comes from, but he also owns the U.S. patents for the LP1000 Life Pager, a decoy pager that contains pepper spray for self-defense. Franks reported no income from these assets, but valued them at #100,000 to $250,000.
#26 Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., $10.60 million, +16.4 change: Mr. Petri’s largest asset is his stake in Walgreen Co., valued at a minimum of $5 million. His other investments include at least $1 million each in U.S. Bank, Berkshire Hathaway and Lloyd’s of London. He is being included in this list because of what he sold off this year: Petri discarded his shares of the Washington Post Company in a transaction valued at $100,000 to $250,000.
#29 Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, $10.28 million, -1.6% change: Mr. Harkin is one of the few members of Congress who appears to be worse off than he was a year ago, albeit not bad enough to keep his name from appearing on the wealthiest members list. Despite the fact that nearly all of Mr. Harkin’s wealth is contributed by his wife, Ruth Harkin, nearly all of it also comes from holdings of more than $1 million in United Technologies Corp. stock., where Ruth Harkin previously served as senior vice president for international affairs and government relations, according to Roll Call. United Technologies specializes in providing high technology products and support services to the aerospace and building industries worldwide. Ruth Harkin recently accepted a seat on the advisory board of NTR PLC, a Dublin-based company that focuses on renewable energy.
#39 Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, $8.51 million, n/a change: Before he assumed office this year, Mr. Farenthold, an attorney, also worked as a conservative radio talk show host and founded a computer consulting and web design firm. His largest asset, however, is a trust valued at $5 million to $25 million. He also reported another family trust, the Morgan Trust in the Benefit of R. Blake Farenthold, valued at $1 million to $5 million. Farenthold’s grandmother is the late Annie Blake Morgan Head, the daughter of oilman/farmer Rand Morgan.
#40 Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif., $8.44 million, -13.3% change: Mr. Campbell derives most of his income from real estate holdings but is being included on this list because he is a managing member of Fast Cars and Freedom Publications LLC with an investment of $15,000 to $50,000. Based in San Diego, Calif., this asset did not produce any income in 2010, according to Mr. Campbell’s disclosure report.
#46 Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., $7.41 million, +7.4% change: Mr. Bingaman’s largest asset declined by more than $1 million in 2010, but thanks to several new investments to his portfolio, he remains one of the wealthiest lawmakers in Washington, D.C. One of the additions is his wife’s $1 million purchase of Cerca Acquisition, a New York-based private equity fund that owns a New Mexico-based software company.