Since the inception of the Occupy Wall Street movement, we’ve heard over and over again the now-familiar meme: we are the 99 percent. We’ve read news articles about the disenfranchised, watched video of police tear gassing and beating them. Generally, we’ve been painted a concept about who the others are – the one percent. It’s time to find out who these people are, and what better place to begin than Congress.
I was inspired by two articles I read over the past week where authors sought out the answers to that same question. The North Coast Journal, an alt weekly I worked with a year back, wrote a great article about the one percent in Humboldt County, or rather, the journalistic attempt to discover them through public records and interviews. Here in the East Bay, the East Bay Express published an article highlighting some of the richest Congressional representatives in California.
I decided to take that one step further. Below is a thematic map I made that shows which Congressional districts in California have representatives that are in the one percent by looking at their reported net worth. That information was garnered by the Center for Responsive Politics, an exhaustive database of all things campaign finance for Federal politics.
To find net worth, the center took reported liabilities and subtracted them from reported assets. Due to the reporting requirements of the Feds, representatives don’t disclose the exact amount of assets and liabilities they have, only the ranges. Because of this, the center has stats for minimum, maximum and average net worth. On the suggestion of the center, the average net worth is used in this analysis.
Only one California representative reported no assets or liabilities, Duncan D. Hunter (R-52). Mr. Hunter, son of famed Congressman Duncan Hunter and a former marine who started a residential development company, claims that the sole source of income is from his Congressional paycheck.
That aside, the map works like a heat map: the more yellow to red the district is, the more wealthy the representative is. All the districts in any shade of gray have a net worth below $1 million.
Given the data, there are currently seven California House representatives considered one percent under American economist Edward Wolff’s definition ($8.2 million in net worth).
Additionally, 29 of the 53 representatives have a net worth over one million dollars, while two – Grace Napolitano and Laura Richardson – have a net worth in the negative. Also, due to the reporting schedule, we have the data for former Congressional rep Jane Harman of Redondo Beach (a one percenter), not Janice Hahn (D-36).
The Richest California House Representatives (one percent)
- Darrell Issa (R-49)Southern Riverside County: $448.1 million (Richest Representative Overall)
- Jane Harman (D-36) Redondo Beach: $326.8 million
- Nancy Pelosi (D-8) San Francisco: $101.1 million
- Gary Miller (R-42) Diamond Bar: $46 million
- John Campbell (R-48) Irvine: $20.7 million
- Jackie Speier (D-12) Pacifica: $12.5 million
- David Dreier (R-26) Rancho Cucamonga: $8.4 million
To what degree does a representative with bountiful wealth matter to constituents? How does wealth influence decision making? What have these representatives done to help or hinder the have nots, the 99 percent?