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Texas Congressman Farenthold: debtor, millionaire?

Based on reports from the D.C. media, it’s hard to judge whether freshman U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) is filthy-rich, neck-deep in debt, or maybe a little of both.

In conjunction with the release of 2010 financial disclosure statements for members of Congress, the Washington Post published a story highlighting seven freshmen lawmakers with credit debt exceeding $15,000. That included Farenthold, who, according to the Post, “has pressed for major action to control the national debt. Earlier this year, Farenthold issued a statement rejecting any increase in the debt limit without major spending cuts.”

The forms show Farenthold has outstanding credit card debt of $45,000 to $150,000. A spokesperson didn’t give a comment to the Post before the story ran.

In early March, Farenthold (the grandson of legendary Texas Democrat Sissy Farenthold) figured in a Politico story on the “millionaires club” that is the freshman class of U.S. lawmakers. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, Farenthold was among the wealthiest of the new congressmen, holding more than $20 million in assets ($35.8 million to be precise).

According to the Post at the time, Farenthold’s office sent out a statement saying the rumors of his wealth were “grossly exaggerated” — attributing the skewed data to the fact that Farenthold only partially owns many of the listed assets, together with family members.

“I wish I were worth as much as the reports imply, I could use a new car!” Farenthold said in a statement to the Post.

Following up with aides, the Post reported that Farenthold’s true wealth is somewhere in the $5 million to $7 million range. The Post’s response: “Still enough for a new car, congressman.”

According to his disclosure statements, Farenthold incurred the credit card debt (spread out among three cards) in December 2010. The debt is classified as being held jointly between Farenthold and his spouse.

Since Farenthold claimed he still needed a new car, what did he use those credit cards to purchase? Perhaps it was to help secure his new job.

Farenthold loaned his campaign about $138,000 in all, according reports from the Federal Election Commission. About $6,500 of that was in the form of unpaid credit card expenses by Farenthold for his campaign. His campaign had about $163,500 in the bank as of April 15, still owing more than $125,000 in debts and obligations — nearly all of it to Farenthold himself.

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