Some GOP Members Hit Own Debt Limit
Members Have Faced Liens, Foreclosures
Some Republicans in Congress who have railed against raising the debt ceiling have previously struggled to manage their own finances.
Among the group of lawmakers who have resisted or rejected Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) push to pair spending cuts with a debt limit increase are individuals who have declared bankruptcy, run up hundreds of thousands of dollars in credit card debt, had their homes foreclosed on and failed to pay their taxes, a Roll Call analysis of public records and published reports shows.
Rep. Rick Crawford in April told a group gathered at a town hall meeting in Jonesboro, Ark., that it was time for the country to cut up its credit cards.
“You have a child, a college student, who goes off to college, who comes back after the first semester, and they loaded up a couple of credit cards, maxed them out. And you say, ‘Give me those. Here’s a couple more, don’t do that again,’” the Arkansas Republican said in a video posted by Blue Arkansas. “What do you think is going to happen? They’re probably going to load up those credit cards again. At some point, we’re going to have to take the scissors to the credit cards.”
Crawford, 45, can draw from experience.
When the Congressman was 28 years old and living in Springfield, Mo., he declared bankruptcy to discharge $12,611.67 of his debt.
The 1994 bankruptcy filing — which was first reported by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette during the campaign — included medical bills, utility bills, a loan and credit card debt.
Crawford listed debts of $1,741.75 on his Chase Visa, $2,664.07 on his Citibank Visa, $1,201.02 on his Discover Card, $649.54 on his Sears account, $579.44 on a Famous Barr account, $330.64 on a Lebanon Valley National Bank card, $202.21 owed to Dillard’s department store and $162.68 on a card issued by J.C. Penney, according to court filings reviewed by Roll Call.
At the time, the future Congressman’s monthly take-home pay was $580, and his assets included household items and clothing worth $735 and a tax refund of $400.
“Congressman Crawford knows firsthand the consequences of not living within his means. That is why he is fighting for permanent structural reforms to the way Washington operates to ensure future generations are not suffocated by mountains of debt,” press secretary Anna Nix said.
Freshman Joe Walsh (Ill.) has been clear that he thinks the country has a problem with spending.
“I am one of … the Members of the House that have signed a pledge that says unless we cut spending and unless we cap spending and unless both Houses pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, we will not vote to raise the debt ceiling. It’s a blood oath. It’s a big deal. This is a financial issue, this is a moral issue. We are bankrupting our kids and our grandkids,” Walsh told those who attended a recent Concerned Women for America briefing on the debt crisis.
But in addition to a lawsuit brought by his former wife over more than $100,000 in unpaid child support, which the Chicago Sun-Times reported last week, Walsh is also facing a lawsuit from a former campaign staffer who says he is owed $20,000. Walsh has also in the past accrued thousands of dollars in unpaid condominium fees, failed to pay thousands of dollars in back taxes and lost a home to foreclosure.
Walsh has had several tax liens placed against him, according to public records. The largest of the liens — $21,566.40 owed to the federal government — was the result of an educational trust fund on which Walsh did not know he owed taxes; it has since been repaid. He has likewise repaid state liens that amounted to a couple of thousands of dollars, about $5,000 owed to the condominium association that manages the home he lost to foreclosure and a $4,250 judgment to a furnace company. His most recent personal financial disclosure shows no liabilities and reports assets worth no more than $46,000, though Members are not required to list assets such as personal residences and certain retirement accounts.
The lawsuits brought by his ex-wife and former campaign staffer Keith Liscio are ongoing. At the end of June, Walsh’s campaign owed about $11,000 to the law firm handling work related to disputing debts owed to Liscio and the law firm Mayer Brown.
Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy has said supporting Boehner’s plan gives him “heartburn” but that he will do so anyway to get a deal through the House and the Senate.
In a recent column, Duffy wrote: “I have consistently said that if the president is willing to cut up the credit card, I’m willing to pay the bill. But I cannot agree to a debt limit increase without serious, fundamental reforms to the way Washington spends its money.”
Duffy told attendees in March at a town hall meeting that no one is more familiar with debt than himself.
“I can guarantee you or most of you — I guarantee that I have more debt than all of you,” Duffy said during the question-and-answer session. “I still pay off my student loans. I still pay my mortgage. I drive a used minivan. … I struggle to meet my bills right now. Would it be easier for me if I get more paychecks? Maybe. But at this point, I’m not living high off the hog.”
Financial disclosures filed by Duffy in May reveal that, at some point during 2010, two of Duffy’s personal credit cards each had balances of at least $15,000. In addition, the Congressman owed at least $15,000 on a line of credit with Wells Fargo and had a balance of $50,000 to $100,000 owed on his student loans, as well as two mortgages totaling at least $150,000 on a property that has been described in news reports as his lake cottage. Duffy’s listed assets are valued from $110,000 to $400,000.
“Like many Americans, the Congressman has student loans and credit cards that he’s paying. To suggest that he’s somehow fiscally irresponsible because he’s got credit cards and a student loan is simply absurd,” Chief of Staff Brandon Moody said.