Email #262: “$3.56 million”?

According to InsideGov.com, your net worth was over $3.56 million in 2014. That’s more than four times higher than the average Representative in Congress.

Your wealth also more than doubled in one five-year period. It was just under $1,500,000 from 2004 to 2008, then it steadily climbed over the next four years, hitting $2,303,520 in 2012, followed by an even sharper leap to $3,563,525 by 2014.

That remarkable growth began during President Obama’s first year in office, while the U.S. economy was still in the final months of the Great Recession.  Would you please explain how your wealth increased so drastically during Obama’s two terms–a period in which you were so critical of his economic policy? How were able to profit while the rest of the country was suffering?

I do see that your one drop in wealth occurred during the height of the recession, during President Bush’s final year in office. It dipped from $1,499,021 to $1,413,522. Though that $85,499 difference is a negligible amount to a millionaire, it’s more money than the vast majority of your constituents have ever earned in a year.

About 27% of our district’s households earn between $25,000 and $50,000, and the second largest group, 24%, earn less than $25,000. Those percentages are higher than average for Virginians, as well as Americans generally. Only 6% in our district earn over $150,000—a group even more elite than the national 10% average or Virginia’s 15% average.

Your Congressional base salary is $174,000—a fraction of your net worth. When I asked you about your salary last December, you bragged:

“each year since my election, I have been proud to make charitable contributions equal to the pay increase Congress approved for itself before I took office. I also thought it was wrong for Members of Congress to get a pay raise in 2009, so I have donated the entire value of that pay raise to charities each year since then as well. So far, I have contributed a total of $119,700 to 113 Sixth District charities and nonprofits organizations.”

Since you have been in office for nearly a quarter century, your average annual charitable donation then is just under $5,000. Is that really something a millionaire should be bragging about? Especially when 113,115 of your constituents live below the poverty line?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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