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Some Least Wealthy Members Move Up

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Barbara Lee of California landed on Roll Call’s list of the poorest Members for 2010 but managed to improve her lot in 2011.

It is expected that a provision in the recently passed Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act requiring lawmakers to report mortgages on personal residences as liabilities ó but not the residences as assets ó will cause the reported minimum net worth of many to dip in this yearís batch of disclosure reports, even if they have repaid other debts.

Noem, for example, paid off at least $20,002 in credit card debt, and the minimum value of a family-owned insurance business increased from $350,001 to at least $500,001. That would have vastly increased her minimum net worth had a mortgage of $250,001 to $500,000 not been reported as a liability.

Outstanding legal bills continue to prove costly for the have-nots, increasing the likelihood that they will remain among the least wealthy in Congress.

Hastings was Roll Callís poorest Member of Congress last year, with a negative net worth of about $2.13 million. That figure appears to have changed little in 2011, largely due to outstanding legal debt that could be as high as $7.3 million.

The decades-old legal bills were incurred in the 1980s, when Hastings was defending charges that he had taken bribes as a federal judge. A jury acquitted Hastings, but he was ultimately impeached and convicted by Congress. The financial remnants of the probe will likely land the Florida lawmaker among the poorest in Congress on this yearís list.

Richardson appears to have likewise not paid down debts owed to two law firms that together surpass $150,000.

Kate Ackley, Janie Lorber and Adriel Bettelheim contributed to this report.

Correction: June 17, 2012

An earlier version of this story misstated Roll Callís calculation of the minimum net worth of Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). It is at least $12,011, according to Roll Call's formula.

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