November 11th, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street movement has focused the national discourse on wealth inequality and, specifically, the split between the richest 1 percent and the 99 percent that’s left. While most Californians, by definition, are not members of the wealthiest 1 percent, it turns out that many of us are represented in Congress by those who have attained that elite status.

The cutoff for the top 1 percent of American households, in terms of net worth, is about $9 million, according to New York University economics professor Edward Wolff. His estimate is based on the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances, which put the figure at $8.2 million in 2007, he said.

That puts many members of Congress squarely within the 1 percent, including prominent members of California’s delegation, such as Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein; Rep. Nancy Pelosi, also a Democrat; and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, a Republican. See above for a full list of members of California’s congressional delegation with average net worth above $9 million, from 2009.

July 7th, 2011

Combative LA congressional race brings big spending

Two congressional candidates are throwing down big money in western Los Angeles as they vie to succeed retired Rep. Jane Harman, one of Congress’ wealthiest Democrats, who stepped down in February to head a Washington think tank.

Democrat Janice Hahn, a Los Angeles city councilwoman, and her opponent, Republican businessman Craig Huey, have combined to spend more than $1.5 million so far on the 36th Congressional District race, which will be decided in a special election Tuesday.

As the LA Times has noted, the race has been unusually combative for a district largely seen as a Democratic safe haven. Democrats have an 18-point voter registration advantage in the district and saw Gov. Jerry Brown win by a double-digit margin last fall. Read more.

Image: CarlKeyes/

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California Watch, the largest investigative journalism team operating in the state, was launched in 2009 by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Investigative Reporting. Areas of coverage include education, health and welfare, public safety, the environment and the influence of money on the political and regulatory process.