The 'poorest' members of Congress

'Poorest' members of Congress

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These men and women may occupy some of the highest positions in government, but they may be paupers among princes, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics. The senators and representatives on this list disclosed liabilities exceeding their assets. Millions of dollars in legal fees, mortgages and debts on family farms are just some of the forces dragging down these lawmakers' finances.

To tabulate each legislator's net worth, the CRP takes data from financial disclosure forms that members of Congress are required to file every year. But they are required to report only ranges for the values of their assets, not exact figures. For example, one representative had stock in Ford Motor that totaled anywhere from roughly $2,000 to $30,000. Therefore, the CRP came up with three numbers based on these estimates: a possible minimum and maximum amount, and an average of the two. The CRP bases its ranking on that average. We have listed all three. The rankings are based on the average estimated net worth.

Read MoreWho are the richest members of Congress?

These numbers also do not necessarily include a lawmaker's primary home or vacation spots, according to a blog post on the CRP's website. Unless they collect rent on these properties, lawmakers are exempted from reporting these as assets, even if they are worth millions.

Thus these are estimates at best. But they provide an illuminating look into the wealth, or lack thereof, for many of the country's political leaders. The figures are from 2012, the most recent year available from CRP's data crunching. Click ahead to see who's the poorest of them all.

—By staff
Posted Aug. 29, 2014

5. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn.

Bill Clark | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

Minimum: ($1,149,999)
Average: ($472,502)
Maximum: $204,995

Being $472,000 in the hole might seem like a bad spot, but OpenSecrets data says Fincher's situation has improved since 2010, when his record showed him to be $3.3 million in debt. Most of his household's liabilities are loans on farm equipment. His 2012 record indicated his family has up to $1.65 million in loans for a farm valued at no more than $1 million.

4. Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez, D-N.Y.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)
Bill Clark | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

Minimum: ($749,998)
Average: ($510,000)
Maximum: ($270,002)

Velazquez was worth an estimated $1.8 million in 2004, but the data since then suggest she may have fallen on harder times. In 2012, her household's assets included investments in real estate investment trusts. At the same time, she could have as much as $780,000 in debts from two mortgages and revolving charge accounts.

3. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas)
Bill Clark | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

Minimum: ($5,287,942)
Maximum: $680,995

Even though Hinojosa's debt was estimated to be more than $2 million in 2012, he disclosed a robust portfolio of family financial holdings, much of it in stocks, including Amazon, Apple and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

2. Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, D-Fla.

Larry Marano | WireImage | Getty Images

Minimum: ($7,348,999)
Average: ($4,732,002)
Maximum: ($2,115,006)

Hastings listed assets totaling no more than $15,000 in 2012, and he owed more than $2 million (and as much as $7.3 million) in legal fees, some of which he spent in the 1980s fighting an impeachment trial and other legal battles while serving as a U.S. district judge, according to the U.S. Senate website.

1. Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif.

David Valadao, (R-CA)
Tom Williams | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

Minimum: ($24,498,997)
Average: ($12,167,002)
Maximum: $164,993

Valadao unseated Hastings as the "poorest" member of Congress in 2012, due to debts he owed on dairy farms registered in Hanford, a town in the district he represents, according to the CRP. Valadao actually listed assets worth up to roughly $5.5 million, including his farms.