« Return to this article

Know the West

Friday news roundup: Prosperous and in Congress


Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo, is one of the wealthiest members of Congress. And she's by far the wealthiest congressperson in her state, according to a recent report by WyoFile, the Wyoming-based investigative reporting network. Her net worth--between $5.5 million and $24 million--cast her as the 29th richest member of the U.S. House of Representatives, according to OpenSecrets.org. Because of reporting mechanisms, U.S. politicians report their assets as ranges, but if one take the median estimate of her wealth, $14.75 million, she easily ranks in the top one percent of all American earners, says WyoFile. (USA Today has reported 57 members of Congress -- 11 percent -- rank among the nation's top one percent, a category that means they possess more than $9 million in net worth.)

In 2007, Lummis reported that her shares in three family companies were worth between $5 million and $25 million. She also holds a whole lotta land, including 14,000 acres in Laramie County, 1,600 acres of Platte County ranchland, and 1,200 acres in Albany County, along with a Lummis Livestock property gravel pit, her primary residence and a Washington D.C. condo. Her husband, Alvin Wiederspahn, also owns several properties.

The WyoFile story got High Country News thinking about the relative wealth of other Western politicians. So we did some research to see which politicians ranked highest in the wealth rankings for our neck of the woods.

CQ Roll Call annually compiles a list of the top 50 wealthiest members in Congress using minimum estimates of net worth. Only 12 Westerners made Roll Call's top 50. Interestingly, we noted that most of the Democrats in the list generally have a pro-environment take on legislation. 

Here are a few Western politicians from the top, with their minimum net worth listed:

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.: $220.40 million minimum

With the highest total assets reported among the members, he's still second to Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas. Issa started a car alarm manufacturer, Directed Electronics, before being elected to Congress. These days he garners support from DEI LLC and Greene Properties, which own and oversee California industrial and office property, among other investments. The two companies have a minimum net worth of $62 million.


Rep. Jared Polis, D.-Colo.: $65.91 million minimum

At number 6, restructuring was the name of the game for Polis. In March 2010 he transferred investment funds into a blind trust. He also paid the bank to report just $2 million in debt in 2010 compared with $6 million in 2009 and took about $4 million off the mortgage of his Boulder property.



Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.: $45.39 million minimum

A San Francisco’s Carlton Hotel Properties investment in addition to a Kauai, Hawaii, condominium and her husband's partnerships, LLCs, brokerage accounts and a checking account helped Feinstein attain a number 9 ranking.



Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.: $35.20 million minimum

Hovering at 12, Pelosi increased her wealth by more than half in 2010. But that's thanks to husband Paul Pelosi's additional investment in the United Football League and increased property values. He owns a San Francisco office building and a Sacramento property that's undeveloped.



Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho: $19.78 million minimum

While not at the head of the pack, Risch is definitely not out of the game. Three mortgages might have offset his assets but the only Northwest congressperson to make the list had plenty of Idaho acreage in 2010 on which to gain rental income. Risch owns 284 acres of farm and ranchland -- 64 acres in Canyon County, another 40 in Ada County and a larger, 180-acre tract. He also discarded at least $265,000 in promissory notes in 2010.


"The vast majority of members of Congress are doing very well," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which compiled reporting forms for USA Today. "They've got the resources to tide them over through an extended sour economy."

Other Western members of Congress that made the list:

  • Rep. Gary Miller, R-Calif.
  • Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz.
  • Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
  • Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.
  • Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif.
  • Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M.
  • Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.

Kimberly Hirai is an intern at High Country News.

Image of Rep. Cynthia Lummis courtesty Flickr user Gage Skidmore.

Image of Rep. Darrell Issa courtesy Flickr user Gage Skidmore.

Image of Rep. Jared Polis courtesy Flickr user TEDxBoulder.

Image of Sen. Diane Feinstein courtesy Flickr user EivindAndHans.

Image of Rep. Nancy Pelosi courtesy Flickr user Cosmic Smudge.

Image of Sen. James Risch courtesy Flickr user Idaho National Laboratory.