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Friday, November 2, 2012

Politicians and Their Personal Finances

For this weekend's Your Money column, I tried to profile the poorest members of Congress in all the land. Given the limited financial disclosures that our elected representatives must make, which the Center for Responsive Politics does a nice job of collecting in one place, it's hard to say for sure who has the lowest net worth.

But Representative Joe Walsh, who is in a tough re-election battle, is probably among the poorest. He has also had his personal finances laid bare in the last couple of years. Chicago-area reporters have revealed tax liens, driver's license suspensions, a child support dispute, a foreclosure and other issues.

At what point should politicians' financial troubles keep you from giving them your vote? Should a single foreclosure be disqualifying? An accusation of being behind in child support payments, even one that is later resolved, as Representative Walsh's was? And is a pattern of such problems over time evidence of a kind of irresponsi bility that simply goes too far? Or is it a sad sort of behavioral problem that may not transfer into how someone would handle the public's money?