How do you calculate the “poorest” members of Congress? The 10 on our list have millions in debt among them — from business loans to credit cards to unpaid attorney fees related to an impeachment. But it’s hard to say any of them are really “poor” at all.
With a $174,000 annual salary for most members — which hasn’t budged since the economy turned sour years ago — lawmakers still make far more than the average American, and many are millionaires. But that doesn’t mean everyone is rolling in dough. They have expenses such as maintaining housing in the expensive Washington real estate market, as well as back home in their districts. And some came into office deep in the hole.
The 10 ‘Poorest’ Members of Congress in 2015
While Roll Call pores over every financial disclosure form on file, determining a minimum net worth is an inexact science. It is made all the more difficult by financial disclosure rules that require lawmakers to post all their debts but not every asset, which are reported in wide ranges.
For example, several of the lawmakers on our list with the lowest minimum net worth own multiple houses — not something generally associated with being poor. The rules require all mortgages to be disclosed, but not the value of the homes themselves (nor of homes already paid for).
Because homes are typically principal assets, the disclosure rules have the effect of significantly understating a lawmaker’s net worth. Having more than one home — as does Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz — multiplies the effect.
Many other personal assets also don’t have to be listed. If someone has a Picasso or a Maserati, they don’t have to disclose it. Members are also not required to list their congressional salary, though some chose to do so.