The 20 Richest Members of Congress With Ties To Media & Technology
Each year CQ Roll Call publishes a list of the 50 richest members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives; and for the past two years we’ve reviewed the list to determine how much of these members’ largess is connected to the lucrative media and technology sectors. (For context: The 10 poorest members of congress are dairy farmers, lawyers, small business owners and lifetime public servants.)
From new media to telecom, the fact that 20 of the 50 richest members of congress have technology and media ties is worth noting considering the reliance on these industries to produce jobs. Technology, telecom and media companies are also currently under several congressional and regulatory reviews, so it only makes sense to know the names of lawmakers who have sizable financial stakes — and other specific interests — in the fields.
Ten Democrats and 10 Republicans comprise this list of the 20 richest members of congress with ties to technology and media. While both genders are represented, there are more men than women, and none are from ethnically or racially diverse backgrounds.
Let’s start from the top:
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) ranks first on the list of the richest members of congress; he has a net worth of $355.38 million, according to CQ Roll Call. Prior to getting elected to congress, Issa (who ranked #3 last year) founded Directed Electronics, which manufactures car alarms in Vista, Calif. Now it appears Issa primarily makes his money by investing in the stock market, but he is also president of the OpenGov Foundation, which aims to bring transparency and technology to government.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) has a net worth of $114.10 million, down from the $305.46 million a year ago when he sat atop the list of the 50 richest members of congress; he now ranks at #2. McCaul’s decline in wealth is not because he lost money, but because he valued several holdings in his wife’s name instead of his own, according to CQ Roll Call. In fact most of McCaul’s wealth is held by his wife, Linda McCaul, the daughter of Clear Channel Communications CEO and founder, Lowry Mays.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) reported no earned income or liabilities in 2012 and is the third richest member of congress. While about 66 percent of Warner’s assets are held in trusts, he reported $7.1 million to $35.3 million in holdings in the Columbia Capital Equity Partners technology and telecommunications investment company — his most valuable non-trust asset, according to CQ Roll Call. The Alexandria, Va.-based venture capital firm invests in wireless, broadband, media and enterprise information technology. A former governor of Virginia, Warner made his fortune from starting ventures in energy and real estate and co-founded the cellular company that would become Nextel. His current net worth is $91.31 million.
Okay, okay. So it’s probably not fair that we include Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) on this list considering the source of his wealth long-predates emerging technology and new media. That said, Rockefeller whose net worth is estimated to be $83.77 million, has a tenuous tie to media: His wife, Sharon Percy Rockefeller, is President and CEO of Arlington, Va.-based WETA Public Broadcasting. Rockefeller is the fifth richest member of congress, according to CQ Roll Call.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) is the seventh richest member of congress and the only one in the top 10 who is under age 50. 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. With a current networth of $68.13 million, CQ Roll Call reports that in the past year Polis sold part of his stake in the photo-sharing company LifePics for $1 million to $5 million and has other assets that include “a $2.85 million share of the world’s only aquaculture venture capital firm, Aquacopia; $6 million in the medical equipment and services companies Symbius Medical and Bridgehealth Medical; and $700,000 in the business incubator Techstars, which uses executives from Birchbox, Warby Parker and Twitter to mentor the next generation of startups.” Polis also continues to hold partnership positions in venture capital and investment firms.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) has a net worth of about $34.45 million, thanks in large part to investments she holds with her husband, including a controlling stake in Maine Today Media Holdings, which publishes two of the biggest newspapers in Pingree’s district, the Portland Press Herald and the Kennebec Journal. Pingree is ranked #11 on the list of wealthiest lawmakers.
Most of the House minority leader’s income is connected to real estate investments held with her husband, but the couple also derives significant income from stocks held in Apple, Facebook, Comcast and Shutterfly, an Internet-based image publishing service based in Redwood City, California. Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) net worth is reported to be around $24.45 million. She’s ranked #15 on CQ‘s list.
Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) built her fortune through ties to the tech industry and includes $1.35 million in Microsoft assets. But the congresswoman, whose net worth is about $23.91 million, also took a financial hit when she reportedly invested in a low-budget 2009 comedy film titled Dumping Lisa about a pair of conniving slackers that was a flop. This is DelBene’s first appearance on CQ‘s list.
Also making a first appearance on the list of richest lawmakers is freshman Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) whose earnings largely stem from investments including significant ownership stakes in at least two biotech companies, CQ Roll Call reports. Collins, ranked #17, has a net worth of $22.26 million. The 63-year-old reported no liabilities.
In addition to sizable trust funds, Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Mass.) also holds significant investments in several companies including media giant Walt Disney Co. The 33-year-old son of former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II and grandson of former senator Robert F. Kennedy debuts at No. 23 on the 50 Richest list with a net worth of $15.25 million.
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) is an active stock trader who has nearly doubled his net worth over the past year from $8 million to $14.21 million, CQ Roll Call reports. He owns stock in a wide array of companies, including Apple. Hoeven is ranked #26 on the richest lawmaker list.
Most of Scott Rigell’s (R-Va.) wealth derives from car dealerships and real estate properties he owns, but the 28th richest congressman also holds stakes in several restaurants and an Orlando, Fla., digital media company. Rigell’s net worth is estimated to be $12.60 million.
Despite the fact that nearly all of Tom Harkin’s (D-Iowa) 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. Harkin sits at #30 of the richest lawmaker list with a net worth of $11.88 million.
Rep. Trent Franks
Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) 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. Number 31 on CQ Roll Call’s list, Frank’s net worth is estimated to be $11.12 million.
A freshman, Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) owns a diverse stock portfolio spread among 18 brokerage accounts, reports CQ Roll Call. His largest holdings were stakes worth $50,000 to $100,000 in such companies as Apple and Google. Schneider’s net worth is $9.93 million. He’s ranked #35 on the list.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) listed assets worth $9.23 million, mainly from a tax-exempt money market fund worth at least $5 million, but he also listed his wife’s assets. Former Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao collected salary and fees from a variety of sources including Fox News. McConnell is ranked #39 on CQ Roll Call‘s list.
Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) derives much of his wealth from RightNow Technologies, a software company that Oracle Corp. acquired in 2011 for $1.5 billion, making Daines a millionaire several times over, according to CQ Roll Call. He drew a combined salary of $268,700 from the companies in 2012, according to his financial disclosure, boosting his net worth to $9.19 million. Daines’ biggest asset, reports CQ Roll Call, is a stake worth at least $5 million in Genesis Partners, a Bozeman, Mont., real estate venture that leased office space to RightNow Technologies. He ranks 40th on the list.
Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), a former investment banker, doubled his wealth in the stock market from $3.41 million in 2011 to a current $8 million. While most of his assets stem from a diverse real estate portfolio, he’s also heavily invested in technology concerns, spreading his money among major players in computing such as Hewlett Packard, Intel, IBM and Microsoft, as well as service providers including Comcast and Qualcomm. Cooper, ranked #43 on the list, has an estimated net worth of $8.16 million.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) has an estimated net worth of $8.16 million. Most of the House Energy and Commerce chairman’s comes from a family trust (his grandfather founded Whirlpool Corp.), but Upton also owns stock in Microsoft among other companies. He’s ranked #44 on the list.
Before Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) assumed office in 2011, he was an attorney and conservative radio talk show host. He also founded a computer consulting and web design firm. His largest asset, however, is a trust worth $5 million to $25 million, according to CQ Roll Call. Farenthold also lists a few assets designated for his children such as Walt Disney stock. Farenthold, who ranks at #47 on the list, has a net worth of $7.74 million.