Wealthy More Likely To Contact Congress, Study Says

People with a median wealth of at least $7.5 million are far more likely to have contacted their member of Congress than the average person, a new study indicates.

The study, titled "Wealthy Americans, Philanthropy and the Common Good," by Northwestern University's Benjamin I. Page, Fay Lomax Cook, and Rachel Moskowitz, asked 83 people, mostly from the Chicago area and with a mean net worth of $14 million, about their contact with members of Congress and other government officials.

About half of the respondents had contacted their member of Congress or some other government official in the previous six months. Some respondents also listed high-level contacts, such as former White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel, adviser David Axelrod, as well as the president himself.

Additionally, 40 percent of those surveyed had contacted a member of Congress from another district or state.

The study indicated that wealthy Americans are far more likely to be active in politics than less-affluent citizens. Nearly all of the respondents voted in the 2008 election, compared to just 64 percent of all registered voters in the electorate as a whole.

The study also found that 21 percent of respondents had "bundled" contributions -- solicited money from networks of friends and co-workers -- to a party, candidate, or political cause.

Yet the study claims the rich don't always use their money and above-average contact with government officials in their own self-interest.

"For those who are worried that wealthy Americans may use their political influence to pursue narrow self-interests in conflict with the interests of their fellow citizens, we can offer at least some reassurance," the authors write. "Our wealthy respondents express a great deal of concern about the common good. They consider many potential problems facing the country very important."