Congress

How South Carolina congressmen rank by wealth

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., is the wealthiest member of the Palmetto State congressional delegation, according to a nonpartisan watchdog group that tracks Washington influence.
U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., is the wealthiest member of the Palmetto State congressional delegation, according to a nonpartisan watchdog group that tracks Washington influence. AP

While South Carolina counts four millionaires among its congressional delegation in the nation’s capital, the state's congressmen don't come close to matching the wealth of many of their colleagues.

The nine lawmakers’ net worth ranges from $167,500 to $4.5 million, according to an analysis of their financial disclosure forms by the Center for Responsive Politics.

South Carolina’s delegation is worth a grand total of $14.2 million, more than 60 percent of which is the combined wealth of Reps. Mark Sanford, R-Charleston and Tom Rice, R-Myrtle Beach.

Members of Congress receive an annual base salary of $174,000.

At the top of South Carolina’s list with a net worth of $4.5 million, Sanford is only the 127th richest member in the U.S. Congress. The former South Carolina governor accumulated most of his personal wealth through coastal real estate, a stint on Wall Street and inherited money. His 2014 financial disclosure forms show income from real estate investments in Beaufort as well as commercial properties.

Rice, a former tax lawyer, isn’t far behind, with an average net worth of $4.2 million.

Rounding out the Palmetto State’s congressional millionaires club are Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-Rock Hill, whose average net worth is $2.6 million; and Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-Laurens, with $1.1 million.

At the bottom of the South Carolina list is Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-Spartanburg, with an average net worth of $167,000. Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, was elected in 2010. His financial disclosure forms show liabilities, which include a mortgage on his house in Spartanburg and a student loan by a dependent.

South Carolina’s senators saw the sharpest decline in net worth from the previous year, according to InsideGov.com, a government research web site that used the same data. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s worth dropped 71 percent and Sen. Tim Scott’s fell by 64 percent.

$42,367 Median household income in South Carolina in 2014, the ninth lowest in the country

Each lawmaker’s net worth is calculated by averaging the ranges of their debts, assets and liabilities, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. While this method yields a useful estimate, it’s far from an accurate representation of their finances. Members are required to report figures spanning a very broad range, starting at $1 to $1,000 and ending with any asset or liability worth more than $50 million.

Roll Call’s annual Wealth of Congress index uses a different formula to rank members, based on the minimum net worth in the range. According to its 2015 ranking, Scott is one of just two senators on the list of 10 poorest, with a negative net worth of $-0.71 million because of his multiple mortgages and a line of credit topping $50,000.

The richest member of Congress this year was Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., with a net worth of $436.5 million, followed by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., with a net worth of $387.8 million. At the bottom is another California Republican, Rep. David Valadao, a dairy farmer with a negative net worth of $25 million, who carries several lines of credit to support his business.

CORRECTION: This version corrects in the 7th paragraph the hometown of Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.

Vera Bergengruen: 202-383-6036, @verambergen

NET WORTH RANKINGS OF THE S.C. CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION

In the Senate:

  • Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham - 88th
  • Republican Sen. Tim Scott - 95th

In the House:

  • Rep. Mark Sanford - 88th
  • Rep. Tom Rice - 94th
  • Rep. Mick Mulvaney - 130th
  • Rep. Jeff Duncan - 205th
  • Rep. Joe Wilson - 256th
  • Rep. Jim Clyburn - 281st
  • Rep. Trey Gowdy - 367th

Source: Center for Responsive Politics

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