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.