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Tilting at Windmills

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April 30, 2011

WEALTHY CONGRESSMAN IS 'STRUGGLING LIKE EVERYONE ELSE'.... Montana's Republican Senate candidate has to realize how foolish this sounds.

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), the 23rd richest member of Congress who owns millions of dollars in farm and ranch land, told an audience member at a town hall in Missoula yesterday that he and his wife "are struggling like everyone else" and that he's "land rich and cash poor."

"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.

The notion of being "land rich and cash poor" -- or in some areas, "house rich and cash poor" -- is legit. A family may have wealth from real estate, but not a lot of money actually sitting in the bank. I get that.

But Rehberg's case makes the argument hard to swallow. According to his own financial disclosure forms, the Republican congressman enjoys a net worth in upwards of $56 million. Out of 535 members of Congress, Rehberg is richer than more than 95% of his Capitol Hill colleagues.

I can appreciate his limited cash flow, but what I hope Rehberg -- who routinely votes against the interests of the middle class and working families -- can understand is that most families in Montana and nationwide don't have this kind of vast wealth to lean on. They have limited cash flows and they don't have millions of dollars in land.

As for the notion that Rehberg is "struggling like everyone else," when your net worth is as high as $56 million, you're not really struggling, and you're not really like everyone else.

Steve Benen 10:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (40)

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Why, the poor man. He just doesn't know where his next bottle of Dom Perignon is coming from! If an elected representative can't tell the difference between being strapped for cash because he CHOOSES not to liquidate certain investments and being so because there just IS NO MONEY ANYWHERE he is just too stupid to be in a responsible position, or to be left walking around without an attendant for that matter.

Posted by: gelfling545 on April 30, 2011 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Such expressed imprecision between language and reality should cause this man to be tested for some intellectual deficiency!

He has expressed openly an utter ignorance of his circumstances, the majority of his constituency in the Great State of Montana, and our fellow Americans who are struggling in earnest to get the next meal on the table for what they thought was their Middle Class Family!

Hey Mr. Congressman dude from Montana, go home and cry about it! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 30, 2011 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

I'd be speachless at this kind of stupidity, but I've heard it too often recently.

It's kind of like Phil Gramm's immortal gun line
- just substitute the word "cash" for "guns:"

Ah hayave moh guhns than Ah neeyad, but nowat as meeyany guhns as Ah wan.'
See? Works just as good with "cash."

Congressman, there are too many people out here who are land poor, house poor, cash poor, food poor, education poor, and health poor.

May I suggest pulling your head out from where it's apparently doing an "At-home Colon/Rectal" exam, and opening you eyes to your sorroundings?


Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 30, 2011 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Here's a other egregious violation by Republicans:

It is OUTRAGEOUS that Republicans seem to think they are Ayn Rand characters, larger than life to whom rules do not apply, nor do they seem to think the Constitutional rights should apply to others. Contrary to 6th Amendment, AZ Gov Brewer has signed into law a law eliminating the right to a jury trial for first-time DUI offenders.

Yes, I am sure DUI cases take up a lot of time and I agree that people should not drink and drive , but that is IRRELEVANT to the principle involved here, for criminal prosecutions a jury trial is a right guaranteed by the US Constitution. If we allow them to start here, eliminating jury trials for drunk drivers,  they can eliminate them for other state defined crimes and soon you have people tossed in jail for no reason at all. 

As you and I know, the judicial system is run by people and people, the best of people, make mistakes - innocent people are arrested  prosecutors make errors, and judges make errors.   While not perfect, a trial by jury helps lower those rates of error and protect the innocent from error and blatant corruption by government officials.

This is a very bad precedent.  I hope some smart lawyer works to overturn it as quickly as possible.

In case you have forgotten here is the text to the 6th Amendment.
"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on April 30, 2011 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

I have no idea how the ranching industry works, what the market for land, cattle, etc, is, but if his business is worth $56,000,000, it's not a "small business". This is a good example of how abused that term is in our political discourse.

I'd also be curious to know to what the Rehberg's "small business" is propped up by subsidies, tax breaks and other government assistance programs.

Posted by: Jim on April 30, 2011 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

This is merely a variation on the core right-wing belief that white people are the real victims. Throw in rich and you have the folksy ideal of deserved wealth "struggling" because of all those onerous transfer payments to unwed black mothers.

Posted by: walt on April 30, 2011 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Very wealthy people typically arrange their finances so as to have minimal taxable income. That hardly means they are struggling. Quite the opposite.

Posted by: Jon on April 30, 2011 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

How many homeless people could Rehberg house on his vast holdings?

Posted by: Ted76 on April 30, 2011 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe he means that he's struggling to get richer. Just think how it must feel to be only the 23d richest member of Congress.

And to have that socialist, phony war hero, John Kerry, at the top of the list ($188.37 million)! How can any good Republican allow that to go unchallenged?

Posted by: arkie on April 30, 2011 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

No, he doesn't know how foolish it is. I have a wealthy (Republican) grandmother who is worth millions, owns lots of rental properties, etc, and is constantly going on about how poor she is.

They really are clueless; this is why they can call millionaires "middle class small businessmen."

Posted by: Speed on April 30, 2011 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

"land rich and cash poor."

Let them eat dirt.

Posted by: Marie A on April 30, 2011 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

I'm pretty sure the average American has a negative net worth, so screw him.

Screw being in the upper 5% of Congress, he is in the upper .001% (give or take a digit) of Americans.

And please, please, please someone look into his wife not getting a salary for ten years. Obviously some corporate set up to protect his wealth from the gov't.

Screw him and screw them all. And big hand for the audience member who at least had the sense to ask about his net worth.

Posted by: martin on April 30, 2011 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

How many homeless people could Rehberg house on his vast holdings?

Could be a lot of fun finding out! There must be trains from NY, Chicago and LA to Montana. Rehbergville, anyone?

Posted by: chi res on April 30, 2011 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

"We're struggling like everyone else. Times are so tight we've had to switch from Almas caviar to Beluga, just so we can afford to have truffles with our Kobe beef steaks."

Posted by: OldUncleDave on April 30, 2011 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

He's so rich he doesn't even understand how his admission that his wife has been operating her business for 10 years without a salary strikes the average listener. It sounds pretty luxurious that one of them can go without bringing home a paycheck for a whole decade, and they still have a roof over their heads, much less thousands of acres.

It also sounds like a total tax dodge, a hobby business that exists solely to generate deductible losses. How is she paying for her food and transportation and clothing if she's not bringing home any money? "Company" car? Other "business" deductions?

It's funny that he thinks he's fooling anyone with this story.

Posted by: biggerbox on April 30, 2011 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Running a herd of 500 cattle makes one poor? Running a herd of 600 sheep makes one poor?

His poor wife hasn't drawn a check in 14 years. Must be tough being a water right's attorney, representing ranchers and farmers in Montana, eh?

This is the homophobe who is going to run against Tester in 2012. He is the one who defended cutting state hospital funding in Montana by saying that since gays were dying from AIDS, why was any money needed for hospitals.

This fellow has been on governmental payrolls for years, first as an assistant, then, Lt Governor, State and, now, Federal Representative. Yes, indeed, a River does run through the bigoted brain of this Governmental hypocrite.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 30, 2011 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

"Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), the 23rd richest member of Congress who owns millions of dollars in farm and ranch land, told an audience member at a town hall in Missoula yesterday that he and his wife "are struggling like everyone else" and that he's "land rich and cash poor."

Amazing that people will stand up in public and make one ludicrous statement after another and people just sit there staring blankly. Half of them are probably unaware they are out in public and not at home watching TV. The last 30 years should be referred to by historians as the Age of Ignorance.

Posted by: max on April 30, 2011 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Fuck you Denny Rehberg.

Posted by: cwolf on April 30, 2011 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

when your net worth is as high as $56 million, you're not really struggling, and you're not really like everyone else.

Good campaign ad for anyone who wants to challenge Rehberg in 2012. Simple. And easy for anyone worth less than a million to understand. They do have non-millionaire voters in Montana, don't they?

Posted by: majun on April 30, 2011 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Not knowing anything about finance, I fail to understand how $56 million in land-holding can't be used as collateral for loans. Wouldn't be the same as income, but it would be a virtually unlimited line of credit.

Or, when all else fails, liquidate the damn land and live on a pile of cash.

Posted by: Grumpy on April 30, 2011 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

One wonders how it is that even a semi-competent accountant hasn't been able to cobble together some sort of way for "poor" Congressman & Mrs. Rehberg to get enough cash-flow out of that $56 million in "net worth"? A good guess might be that, it being Montana, and the Rehbergs' wealth being in "farm and ranch land", that a lot of that $56 mil is probably overvaluation, and most likely leveraged up the gulch, and that a lot of the cash flow (including, I'm sure some of those lucrative gubmint subsidies) is probably going to pay vig on (probably underwater) loans.

Cry us a river, Denny: when poverty makes you have to make the choice between paying, say, only two out of three bills of rent, heat, or food - like I'm sure some of your constituents have to - then we'll feel sorry for you.

Til then, FOAD

Posted by: Jay C on April 30, 2011 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

His wife doesn't take a "salary" but that's because they have a good accountant. Since she takes no salary, she is not paying into SS and Medicare, nor is she paying income tax. But you can be guaranteed that her "small business" takes care of all her living expenses that are then deducted from the business taxes.

Yeah, I feel really sorry for Mr. and Mrs. Rehlberg. Having plenty of money and avoiding paying your fair share is such a hardship.

Posted by: karen marie on April 30, 2011 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Not news. Republican congressman is a lying asshole.

News. I did a little trolling, and there is good evidence that he is a "rexall ranger - all hat, not cattle". I don't care to spend much time on this slime, but here is an clip from an article about a land dispute, from the MSM Helena paper a few years back:

"The flap over state lands leased by the Rehbergs is the latest controversy that has swept over Rehberg Ranch Estates, an 815-acre high-end subdivision, announced in October 2001, north of town on the Billings Rimrocks. Original plans called for up to 1,200 residents, a golf course, riding stable and access to neighboring state lands. Today, about 90 lots in the first part of the development have been sold and plans for the golf course hit a snag with a perennial western problem: no water. There is also no access to the neighboring state section, not even for residents of Rehberg Ranch Estates, some of whom say they paid extra for the benefit and now feel misled."

Translation- he is not a rancher, and wouldn't know cowshit unless it hit him in the face. He is a land developer. A real estate tycoon. And, while he is land rich, from looking at his financials at opensecrets.org, he is a piss-poor money manager. His assets are too concentrated, and he does not have a diversified portfolio. So, he is a stupid asshole with poor financial decisions. Just our kind of guy to be a senator.

Posted by: bigtuna on April 30, 2011 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

He's a jerk and a liar. There are MILLIONS of Americans that would be in his shoes. He constantly votes against ANYTHING that would help the middle class so that he can get yet more tax breaks for his 'small business'...he is dispicable.

Posted by: SYSPROG on April 30, 2011 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

As many above have noted, he's LYING. Simply another case of GOP Pathological Lying Syndrome. No in depth analysis is needed. Amazing how it manifests itself in so many ways!

And the Dem and/or media response? [silence]

Posted by: nemisten on April 30, 2011 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

"According to his own financial disclosure forms, the Republican congressman enjoys a net worth in upwards of $56 million."

Steve, you need to correct this. According to Talking Points Memo, "his own most recent financial disclosure form, which covers 2009, shows Rehberg with a self-reported net worth of between $6,598,014 and $56,244,998." So his net worth is up to $56 million, not upwards of it, and could be far lower.

That's not to say that he's still pretty darn wealthy, as far as his assets are concerned. Even at the low end, $7 million is a good chunk of change. Along with his congressional salary that is more than three times median family income, I'm not going to be crying a river for him even if his net worth is at the lower end of the scale. But we should still have the right information at the get-go.

Posted by: dsimon on April 30, 2011 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

You know she hasn't taken a salary in ten years?

He undoubtedly said this to imply that her business wasn't making enough money to pay her a salary. But because her company is a LLC, profits flow through to her personal taxes. By not taking a salary, she isn't denying herself any income but IS denying the state and federal governments any payroll taxes (Social Security, Medicare, unemployment, etc.). In fact, the money that would otherwise go toward payroll taxes goes straight into her pocket.

Posted by: DrGail on April 30, 2011 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

If he has 56 million in net assets and he is not making money from them -- he should sell at least some of them. That is how capitalism is supposed to work. I know he can't imagine giving up anything, but he is not money poor if he chooses not to be. He is only money poor because he wants to keep all of his non-producing assets (if that is even true), make money and not give anything up. It is not a position many of us are in.

Posted by: patrick II on April 30, 2011 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

And on this farm he had some condos, ee-yi-ee-yi-oh.
With a tax break here and a tax break there...

Posted by: beejeez on April 30, 2011 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Like most farmers, Denny is nothing more than a welfare queen with a John Deere cap. He has taken $16,000 in federal farmer welfare in the last 10 years. Not as much as Kristi Noem, but welfare is welfare.

Posted by: Poed Lib on April 30, 2011 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

nemisten on April 30, 2011. I don't think he is lying. I just think he is clueless. As you gain wealth you don't lose the feeling of impending doom. You do tend to think you are struggling. You just forget what struggling really was when you drove a 12 year old car and had to scrimp and save to buy your teenage son basketball shoes. He really does think he is struggling. He has to pay bills every month, probably including interest payments on loans, interest payments that would make most people choke, incumbered by his real estate holdings, holdings he doesn't want to liquidate, but probably should. He isn't hurting. He just thinks he is.

I have known several people over the years who were real estate rich and cash poor.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 30, 2011 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like somebody is going to need some type of retirement plan to cover income and medical care when thy get to be, Oh I don't know, say 65 years old. If only we could come up with something that could protect those of us that are hurting.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on April 30, 2011 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

Reminds me of the wife of the late Kenneth Lay after the Enron scandal. Most of their employees lost their jobs and pensions, but she demanded public sympathy because she was forced to sell some of their vacation homes and a few of their imported luxury cars.

Posted by: labman57 on April 30, 2011 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

T Y P I C A L republican pseudo patrician. Inherited his money.

The rich now live inside such a bubble they have not a clue about anyone but their rich peers, or the richer ones they who make them feel comparatively poor.

The rest of us? The hoi polloi. The ones who aren't rainmakers and CEOs... who cares about them?

Posted by: jjm on April 30, 2011 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

bigtuna at 12:47 PM - thanks! That's the kind of background stuff I look for on this blog.

Posted by: Squeaky McCrinkle on April 30, 2011 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe he can pawn his really tiny Stradivarius for some quick cash.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on April 30, 2011 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

Of course he's struggling! 56 million just isn't worth what it used to be. He's only the 23rd richest member of Congress. He's not even Top of the Pops!

Posted by: Coop on April 30, 2011 at 11:14 PM | PERMALINK

I hope his wife gets a big divorce settlement.

Posted by: Nancy Irving on May 1, 2011 at 1:48 AM | PERMALINK

How much does this clown get in Federal farm price supports?

Posted by: bob h on May 1, 2011 at 6:38 AM | PERMALINK

Like My multimillionaire boss who used to cry poor. I told him to put the racehorses on short feed.

Posted by: John R on May 1, 2011 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK
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