Excuse us for a moment as we break out our tiny vio­lins and a box of kleenex to lament the plight of Con­gress­man Den­ny Rehberg (R‑MT), who is chal­leng­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Jon Tester for his seat in 2012 . You see, although Mr. Rehberg is the 23rd rich­est mem­ber of Con­gress he informed con­stituents at a town hall meet­ing over the week­end that he is strug­gling finan­cial­ly just like them.

“I’m a small busi­ness­man. My wife is a small busi­ness­man. You know she has­n’t tak­en a salary in ten years? She has not, as a result of the busi­ness, because we are strug­gling like every­one else… with the econ­o­my,” Rehberg said.

Accord­ing to Rehberg’s 2009 finan­cial dis­clo­sure form, he self-report­ed a net worth of between $6,598,014 and $56,244,998. In nam­ing him to its 50 Rich­est Mem­bers of Con­gress list, Roll Call notes that Con­gress­man Rehberg’s net worth increased slight­ly from 2009 to 2010.

The ranch and real estate own­er increased his net worth by less than 1 per­cent last year, most­ly because of slight increas­es in stock values.

Even if his net worth is exact­ly one per­cent high­er than the low­er fig­ure above, how many peo­ple in Mon­tana do you think have that kind of mon­ey? In 2010 the medi­an income in Mon­tana was $42, 322, low­er than the nation­al aver­age of $50,221, and Rehberg him­self is mak­ing $174,000 in salary this year.

Oh, the hor­rors of being wealthy! What a bur­den it must be for Con­gress­man Rehberg!

By con­trast, Sen­a­tor Tester intro­duced leg­is­la­tion this year to end auto­mat­ic year­ly pay increas­es for mem­bers of Con­gress.

On Wednes­day, I teamed up with a bipar­ti­san group of Sen­a­tors to intro­duce the Con­gres­sion­al Pay Raise Pre­ven­tion Act. Our leg­is­la­tion (HERE) would require all mem­bers of Con­gress to per­ma­nent­ly give up auto­mat­ic year­ly pay raises.

Under cur­rent law, mem­bers of Con­gress auto­mat­i­cal­ly receive year­ly cost-of-liv­ing pay increas­es unless we vote to stop them.

When I got to the Sen­ate, Con­gress had spent a decade giv­ing them­selves pay rais­es every year, while hard­work­ing, mid­dle-class Mon­tanans strug­gled to make ends meet. Most folks don’t have the lux­u­ry of auto­mat­ic pay raises–and Con­gress ought to lead by example.

Tester ran in 2006, against an out-of-touch, in the pock­et of cor­po­rate inter­ests incum­bent, look­ing to make U.S. Sen­ate look a lit­tle more like Mon­tana. And while Sen­a­tor Tester reports income and assets above the Mon­tana aver­age, its his deeds that show that he’s still fight­ing for the aver­age Mon­tanan. As for Con­gress­man Den­ny Rehberg, the only finan­cial woes he’s fac­ing are the poten­tial of los­ing his job and the six fig­ure salary it pro­vides come Jan­u­ary 2013.

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