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Kerry Bentivolio Files for Bankruptcy

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Fewer than two months after the Santa Claus impersonator and reindeer farmer who represented southeast Michigan for one term left Congress, the tea party-inspired Republican has filed for bankruptcy.  

Former Rep. Kerry Bentivolio listed more than $294,000 in liabilities in documents filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on Monday. Bentivolio, 63, owes nearly $55,000 to two Michigan-based law firms, and has been ordered to pay $120,000 in a case stemming from an illegal campaign claim from his former consultant. According to the filing, Bentivolio has already paid $20,000 to former campaign manager Robert Dindoffer, who sued the congressman in March for damages and fees for his service to Bentivolio's 2012 campaign. As a result of the court ruling in Dindoffer's favor, many of Bentivolio's assets were seized or garnished this winter.  

In CQ Roll Call's most recent Wealth of Congress roundup, Bentivolio ranked 339th. He reported a net worth of at least $150,000 — putting him higher on the list than five fellow colleagues from Michigan, including Democratic Rep. John Conyers Jr. and former GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, plus Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, all of whom had negative net worths.  

The Army and National Guard veteran noted a package of VA pension benefits and disability payments, plus $38,585 in Federal Employee Retirement System funds. His teacher retirement earnings have not yet vested.  

Bentivolio noted in the filing that he has $1,500 in security deposits for an apartment in Southeast Washington, but that personal property "may have [been] taken." He reported owing nearly $1,7790 in unpaid rent.  

Among his other assets are $450 worth of books including texts from his pre-Congress career as a high school teacher, five bibles and congressional books with "sentimental value."  

For his four-bedroom home in Milford, Mich., Bentivolio lists defunct bee hives, homemade wine, a chicken coop and broken log splitter as part of his personal property. He also notes a collection of rifles and pistols valued at $5,100.  

The Old Fashion Santa LLC is appraised at $1, and "believed worthless," according to court documents. His two congressional campaign entities have no assets, only the obligation to report to the Federal Election Commission in April.  

One of his most high-profile moves in Congress was a proposal targeting the District of Columbia's traffic cameras. The proposal provoked a backlash from D.C. officials, but Bentivolio never introduced a bill. Fellow tea party firebrand Steve Stockman, R-Texas, took up the cause as one of his final crusades before leaving Washington.  

In an exit interview with the The Detroit News, which first reported Bentivolio's bankruptcy filing, the single-term freshman foreshadowed his money woes. Asked what he planned to do when he left Congress, he reportedly said, “I plan to follow in the footsteps of Jesus: broke and homeless.”  

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