How do you spell senator? With a capital $
How do you spell senator? With a capital $
Washington -- If Linda McMahon is elected to the Senate, she could become the wealthiest member of an already very wealthy club.
According to her financial disclosure report for 2011, McMahon and her husband Vince had $90 million to $350 million worth of assets.
Assets and income are reported in ranges, making it difficult to pinpoint the actual wealth of an incumbent or candidate for Congress. The value of main residences and assets such as artwork that aren't intended to create wealth do not need to be reported to the Secretary of the Senate.
The McMahons' investments included stocks, bonds, mutual and hedge funds and real estate -- both in the United States and overseas. A major holding is stock in World Wrestling Entertainment, a company Linda McMahon established with her husband. She reported owning between $5 million and $25 million worth of the stock.
The McMahons also reported a huge liability -- a loan from Morgan Stanley valued at between $5 million and $25 million that was used to build their investment portfolio.
Linda McMahon is running for retiring Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman's seat, but she's not the only millionaire running for the seat. Democrat Susan Bysiewicz and Republican former Rep. Chris Shays also would qualify for the millionaire's club, as do Connecticut's current senators.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., whose maximum wealth was estimated at $281 million in 2010, is currently considered the Senate's richest member.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., whose wealth was estimated at as much as $91 million that year, is also among the most affluent members of the Senate.
It's unclear whether Kerry and Blumenthal became richer or poorer last year.
Financial disclosure reports for 2011 for all members of Congress were released Thursday, but Kerry and Blumenthal asked for -- and were granted -- extensions.
Lieberman did release a 2011 report, and it showed that his financial situation did not change much from the year before. The Connecticut independent reported assets of between $900,000 and $3 million.
"These days, being a millionaire typically qualifies you as part of the one percent. But in Congress, it only makes you average," according to a release from the Center for Responsive Politics.
In 2010, there were 67 millionaires in the Senate, which has 100 members, and the most recent financial disclosure reports are expected to show there were more last year. The House of Representatives has many wealthy members, but millionaires accounted for only about 40 percent of that chamber
Despite the recession, during which most average Americans became poorer, the estimated net worth of a senator was $2.63 million in 2010, up about 11 percent from 2009, and up about 16 percent from 2008, the Center for Responsive Politics said.
"Since the beginning of the Republic, the Senate has attracted wealthy citizens disproportionately, maybe because of noblesse oblige," said University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato, referring to an old expression about the obligations of royalty, or noble people, to common folk.
"Others would say that it's because the rich already have all the other play toys they desire, so why not a Senate seat! But personally I think that's too cynical in most cases."
Sabato said the rich can represent the poor and middle class as well as less wealthy lawmakers. But he cautioned against a Senate "full of just millionaires."
"It's vital to recruit and elect people of more modest means, lest the Senate become just another British House of Lords," Sabato said.
If Shays, Linda McMahon's Republican rival, were elected to the Senate, he would also qualify for the millionaire's club. Shays reported assets worth between $1.1 million and $5.3 million last year.
Among Shays' assets is a home and boat dock at Maryland's Eastern Shore valued at between $1 million and $5 million.
Democratic Senate candidate Susan Bysiewicz would also likely join the club. She reported assets valued between $948,000 and $3.4 million.
But the election of another Senate candidate, Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5th District, would drag down the average wealth of a U.S. senator.
Murphy reported assets worth between $20,000 and $60,000 and an outstanding student loan in the amount of between $30,000 and $100,000. He also reported a mortgage of between $250,000 and $500,000.