Published August 16, 2012
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney found a running mate wealthier than most of us. Although not nearly as rich as Romney, Rep. Paul Ryan has a net worth of about $4.5 million and earned at least $344,000 last year, putting him in the top 5 percent of income earners. Most of his money comes from his marriage and inheritances.
At a glance, Ryan's finances reflect an upper middle-class family: Ryan mortgages his home -- six bedrooms with 5,700 square feet on less than one acre -- though it's no gilded mansion. He and his wife, Janna, support three children, and she's now a stay-at-home mom.
But a review of Ryan's financial statements by The Associated Press shows he is in the wealthiest percentiles of Americans. His income is between $344,000 and $1.4 million. Much of his money comes from a trust fund set up following his mother-in-law's death, as well as investments in natural resources. He also earns an annual salary as a member of Congress of $174,000.
Romney's choice of Ryan could be a lightning rod for Democrats who have criticized Ryan for his proposed cuts to federal programs for the poor and sick. Ryan's supporters said his budget plan is a serious discussion about government's relationship with Americans and tough medicine for a Washington that for years has spent more than it collects. The Romney campaign declined to discuss Ryan's assets, saying his financial statements speak for themselves.
Much of Ryan's wealth includes his wife's assets and her family's businesses in Oklahoma, where her family members are Democratic heavyweights.
As much as $80,000 of the Ryans' income in 2011 came from dividends in four of his father-and-law's interests in Madill, Okla.: mining company Ava O Ltd., gravel-rights firm Blondie & Brownie, timber milling company Red River Pine Ltd. and an unspecified investment in the Little Land Co.
Those assets are worth between $300,000 and $700,000. That means the Ryans' net worth is greater than 80 percent of Americans from their natural-resource investments alone, according to inflation-adjusted data analyzed by the Economic Policy Institute. Their combined assets are as high as $7.6 million, likely putting the Ryans among the top 5 percent of Americans in terms of net worth.
Ryan's other assets include a trust fund following the death of his mother-in-law, Prudence Little, who died of melanoma in 2010. House ethics reports show that trust, worth between $1 million and $5 million, sharply boosted the couple's wealth in recent years, which had previously hovered around $2 million. That trust helped increase his average reported net worth in 2000, the year he and Janna were married, from about $350,000 to more than $1 million.
Ryan has spent much of his career in Congress, first elected to the House in 1998. He comes from a family of means: In 1884, his great-grandfather founded Ryan Incorporated Central, a road construction company that has contracted with the federal government for multimillion-dollar projects.
Ryan is not alone on Capitol Hill in terms of his wealth. Nearly half of Congress, or about 250 members of the House and Senate, are millionaires, according to a 2010 study from the Center for Responsive Politics. That study examined median values of lawmakers' disclosed assets and liabilities.
Ryan also holds stocks in household names, including Apple, General Electric, ExxonMobil and Google.
Romney is much wealthier than his running mate, with a net worth of about $250 million. Some Romney investments have been placed in what Romney has described as a blind trust. Both men say they intend to release only two years of their income tax returns.
None of the four men running for the White House appears to be hurting financially.
President Barack Obama's net worth hovers around $11.8 million, and he earns about $400,000 each year in government salary.
Vice President Joe Biden was one of the least wealthy members of the Senate. The Center for Responsive Politics says that in 2010 his average net wealth was around $230,000 -- about the same amount he is paid annually as vice president. The center lists Biden's wealth as somewhere between negative $258,970 and $718,994, his liabilities outweighing the low end of his assets. Annual financial disclosure reports filed by Biden use broad categories for assets and liabilities.