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January 24, 2013 10:00 AM Politicians in the Red

By Daniel Luzer

The next time some politician talks about the national debt and tries to make it all folksy by comparing it to your credit card or grandma’s farm, keep this in mind: politician debt is just not like real debt.

People who ran (or are running) for office often carry huge debt loads, for many, many years. Michelle Bachman still hasn’t paid some campaign staffers from her presidential run, apparently. But Michelle Bachman, of course, ran a terrible, hopeless campaign and is also an irrational weirdo.

Money problems aren’t exclusive to gigantic losers. Living in the red is pretty standard for politicians. As of October Newt Gingrich owed more than $4.9 million. Rick Santorum still faces a bill of $1.13 million. Bachmann is still about $600,000 in the red. Herman Cain still owes $450,000.

This is, however, debt they often don’t often have repay, or they don’t have to repay very quickly.

When Santorum was running for president he apparently sponsored a car in the Dayton 500. He still owes $30,000 to Front Row Motorsports in Statesville, N.C., for that, but the company isn’t too worried. “Those guys were good partners, and we were honored to help them out and represent them,” the company’s Robin Johnson told ABC News’s Chris Good, “if they owe us a little money, and my understanding is we’re going to be made whole before the end of the year, we’re good with that.”

Rudy Giuliani, who ran for president in 2008, still owes $2.6 million to creditors (what’s the interest rate on that?). Alan Keyes, who ran for president in 2000, still owes more than $300,000. Even Sen. John Glenn, who ran for president back in 1984, is still 2.7 million in debt.

Hillary Clinton, the woman many back in 2006 were predicating would sweep the country, or at least easily take the Democratic nomination, paid her campaign staffers, but the campaign was in incredible debt. Despite extensive personal wealth, running a solid campaign, bowing out gracefully, and the joining the Obama administration, Mrs. Clinton still left the race with a great big bill. HIllaryDebt was at $25 million in June 2008.

But she paid it off, on Tuesday.

That’s just as, many say, she should run again in 2016. Hurrah! More debt!

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer
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