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Who's Weighing Tax On Rich? Congress' Millionaires

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Who's Weighing Tax On Rich? Congress' Millionaires

Politics

Who's Weighing Tax On Rich? Congress' Millionaires

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LYNN NEARY, Host:

NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports.

ANDREA SEABROOK: Michael Beckel is its spokesman. He says of the 435 members of the House...

MICHAEL BECKEL: Two-hundred forty-four current members of Congress are millionaires. That's about 46 percent and that includes 138 Republicans and 106 Democrats.

SEABROOK: Now, the Buffett Rule is not aimed at millionaires, per se, but at people who earn an income of at least a million dollars a year. Some in Congress come under this category, too. But people much more likely to get hit by the Buffett rule: The donors.

BECKEL: We don't know how many political donors are millionaires, but we do know that it takes a certain amount of disposable income to make political contributions.

SEABROOK: Campaigns are expensive. In 2010, says Beckel, the average winner of a House race spent one-and-a-half million dollars. The average Senate winner spent close to $10 million. The hot races are even more expensive. And about half of that money, on average, comes from an elite group of very wealthy donors: people who get a lot of attention from politicians, people who have plenty of opportunities to tell lawmakers how they feel about a new millionaire's tax.

BECKEL: Wealthy Americans have more access to lawmakers than most regular voters and constituents do.

SEABROOK: Though, not everyone agrees that the flow of money in politics creates a conflict of interest for lawmakers on some issues. Roger Pilon, of the libertarian think tank the CATO Institute, says just the opposite.

ROGER PILON: They're not going to be affected or corrupted by any single small contribution. In fact, the more money there is, the less potential there is for such corruption.

SEABROOK: Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, the Capitol.

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