Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker high on Congress' rich list

Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker high on Congress' rich list

September 22nd, 2011 by Chris Carroll in News

Senator Lamar Alexander

In this file photo, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks during a news conference on the debt ceiling on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP)

They're not the wealthiest in Congress - that distinction belongs to a Texas lawmaker worth at least $294 million - but Tennessee's senators certainly aren't hurting for cash.

According to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, both Republicans, hold the 14th and 27th largest fortunes out of 535 members of Congress.

Lowball estimates place Corker's holdings at $21.1 million and Alexander's at $10.2 million. Using maximum values, Corker could be worth more than $100 million.

"Senator Corker started a business from scratch and feels very blessed to have had the kind of success that allows him to donate his Senate salary directly to charity," said Todd Womack, chief of staff for Corker.

Alexander's high-value estimate is $34 million.

Federal law requires U.S. representatives and senators to disclose their assets and liabilities, but only in wide ranges -- $5 million to $25 million, for example.

To make the list, Roll Call used financial disclosures, adding up the minimum value of total assets and subtracting the minimum value of total liabilities.

Asked whether Alexander's wealth made it hard for him to understand the troubles of ordinary Tennesseans, his spokesman, Jim Jeffries, issued a statement.

"Senator Alexander is the son of a principal and teacher from Maryville and knows what it's like to live and grow up without extra money and is doing all he can to create an environment in which more people can find good jobs," Jeffries said.

Records show that Corker, a former real estate developer, derives his wealth from his property holdings. He owns a shopping center in Maryville, Tenn., and an office building in Chattanooga, both valued between $5 million and $25 million.

Corker upped his fortune by at least $3 million in 2010, adding a new investment in a Dow Jones Industrial Average index fund, also valued between $5 million and $25 million.

By contrast, Alexander's fortune dropped by about $2 million, partly because of a real estate transaction.

Alexander and his wife recently sold their investments in an undeveloped land parcel in Nantucket, Mass., in two sales valued at $500,000 to $1 million each. In last year's report, Alexander reported the Nantucket investments' worth at $1 million to $5 million each.

A former Tennessee governor, U.S. education secretary and president of the University of Tennessee, Alexander held on to his investment of $5 million to $25 million in Knoxville-based Processed Food Corp., where he served on the board before his election to the Senate, according to Roll Call.

Both senators fall within the income bracket targeted by President Barack Obama, who recently announced his intention to end George W. Bush-era tax cuts for high-income households. The president also plans to push to close loopholes and limit deductions for those earning more than $250,000 a year.

Womack, Corker's chief of staff, said his boss embraces tax reform that "permanently lowers individual and corporate rates."

Tri-state delegates from the U.S. House of Representatives did not make Roll Call's list. U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann reported between $1.66 million and $3.41 million, while U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais reported assets between $403,000 and $945,000 last year, records show.

Twenty-nine House members and 21 senators comprised the Top 50. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, reported $294 million in assets, making him the wealthiest member of Congress.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., cracked the list at No. 49, reporting $6.47 million in the bank.

The annual salary for rank-and-file House and Senate members is $174,000.