The 113th Congress is considered one of the richest Congresses in history, and it’s possible that there are more millionaires in Washington than ever before. It’s easy to assume that everyone in politics is rolling in the dough, that they all have massive bank accounts with six and seven digit salaries coming in from goodness-knows-where.
Yes, the picture of Congress that’s often painted is that they are the elite, among America’s top 1%. And it’s true that many of them are wealthy and successful, with assets outweighing their liabilities. But we can’t assume that’s the case for all of them. That’s why we’re ranking the poorest members of Congress, here: However, we aren’t looking at those with no assets. Rather we’re looking at both their assets and their liabilities – because while some of these folks have million dollar homes, not all of them are paid for.
Famously, Barack Obama publicly claimed he was still paying back student debt when he entered the White House; he’s certainly not the only congressman in debt. Every member of congress must report their assets, which include money from bank accounts, stocks and other investments. If someone reports that they have $50,000 in the bank, no one would consider that to be poor. However, when we take a look at their liabilities we see those often outweigh the assets. This liabilities are subtracted from assets to provide an estimate of total net worth. Other liabilities might include credit cards, student loans, legal fees and open lines-of-credit.
This list takes a look at those members of Congress who owe the most, when their assets are weighed against their liabilities – according to the site rollcall.com which rounds up the finances of the U.S. congress.
10. Chaka Fattah (D – Pennsylvania): $650,000
Chaka Fattah reported $800,000 in liabilities from mortgages and home equity loans. He owns three properties in the greater Philadelphia area and his assets include a state retirement account worth at least $50,000 and GE common stock worth $100,000. When you compare that to what some of the other members of Congress have, his assets are relatively low, and his mortgage payments are high.
9. Pedro R. Pierluisi (Resident Commission of Puerto Rico): $674,000
Pedro R. Pierluisi is the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico for the United States Congress, which means he is a non-voting member. He can only vote on committees that he’s appointed to. Pierluisi lists his wife’s consulting firm as an asset worth at least $1 million, so why would he appear on this list? Well, he has several multimillion-dollar mortgages on homes in San Juan and that drops his net worth into negative territory since he has more liabilities than assets.
8. Joseph Crowley (D -New York): $762,000
Joseph Crowley lists a few assets, mostly a small retirement plan and some college savings plans for his children, which isn’t all that unusual for most people even outside of Congress. However, his liabilities are on the high side thanks to two mortgages and a home equity line of credit totaling $850,000, which drops his net worth into the negative category.
7. Mike Quigley (D -Illinois): $765,000
Mike Quigley has a college savings plan for his kids, and a pension left over from his service on the Cook County Board of Commissions. Again, nothing too out-of-the-ordinary here. But his debt is relatively high. While a mortgage is pretty standard fare for most people, Quigley also has credit card debt holding him back. His total debt is equal to $800,000, which he does not make up for with all of his combined assets.
6. Steve Israel (D – New York): $795,000
Steve Israel has a small account worth less than $1,000 and a retirement account worth more than $15,000, which is something many middle-class folks can probably relate to. However, as with the other members of Congress on this list, his debt is pretty high. His liabilities come from a mixture of mortgages, credit card debt and the dreaded student loan debt from his children. All this debt combined totals up to about $800,000.
5. Ruben Hinojosa (D – Texas): $808,000
Ruben Hinojoso’s financial troubles started when a family-owned food processing business went bankrupt during the recession. This left him with at least $1 million owed to a creditor, $250,000 in business debt and overdue city and county property taxes totaling about $35,000. This is enough to do damage to just about anyone’s financial health, and it’s dropped the Texas Democrat’s net worth down into negative digits. Proof that even politicians struggled during the economic downturn.
4. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R – California): $943,000
Buck McKeon announced in January that he will not seek reelection in the 2014 election cycle. Before Congress, McKeon helped with the operations of his family’s chain of Western-style clothing stores, which have since closed down. He lists that he has $67,000 in assets composed of bank and life insurance accounts, but he owes more than $1 million in mortgages for two homes – one in his district and the other in Alexandria, VA.
3. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D – Florida): $1.04 million
Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the only woman on out list, and the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. She’s spent most of her career in political office in her home state of Florida. Schultz’s assets may sound good to the rest of us, but it’s still not enough to get her out of severe debt. She reports $100,000 in stock that she shares with her husband, and several small bank accounts and a college savings plan for her children. So what puts Schultz’s net worth into the negative? She has two mortgages worth $750,000 combined, plus $350,000 in home equity and personal loans. She also carried more than $50,000 in credit card debt in 2012.
2. Alcee L. Hastings (D – Florida): -$2.23 million
Alcee Hastings has a controversial track record, and a lot of his debt stems from legal fees he accumulated while cleaning up his messes. When you look at his file, you see impeachments, removal from offices, sexual harassment charges, and accusations of nepotism. With a history like that, it’s not really surprising that he would have a ton of debt in legal fees. He’s still paying off more than $2 million in legal fees from a trial on charges of bribery while he was serving on a U.S. district court. He was acquitted of the charges, but later, a federal panel found that he’d lied and fabricated evidence. He was removed from the court after votes from the House and Senate. In addition to the legal fees, he also holds a mortgage of more than $100,000 that is comparable to the median home values in his district. Still, looking at his past, it’s almost shocking he was voted into Congress after Congress themselves voted him out of his former position.
1. David Valadao (R – California): -$4.10 million
Yes, David Valadao may have the distinction of being considered the poorest member of Congress, but he actually lists more than $1 million in assets. He reports only three assets: his two dairy farms with a combined net worth of $1.25 million and a bank account with more than $1,000 in it. So where does all the debt come from? Not everything he owns is paid for outright. He holds $5.35 million in liabilities, all farm-related, including a $1 million mortgage and multi-million dollar lines of credit on the farm, its operating herd and animal feed.
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