CQ Roll Call used financial disclosure forms to calculate the minimum net worth of every member — check out their data here. We've mapped out the poorest member of Congress from each state, according to their estimates. However, there are a few important things that these calculations leave out.
You'll notice that many of these numbers look quite low, with 41 of these members showing a negative net worth — disclosing liabilities that appear larger than their assets.
The main reason for this is that members of Congress do not have to disclose the value of their personal residences, even if they're second homes or vacation homes. So it's a fair bet that most of these supposedly underwater Congressmen own property that isn't being taken into account here. Mortgages on these homes, though, must be disclosed, and do show up in these calculations as liabilities.
Members of Congress also have to disclose a range for how much each of their assets and liabilities are worth, rather than an exact amount. So for instance, Rep. David Valadao (R-CA), who's ranked as the poorest member of Congress here, actually discloses one asset (Valadao Dairy) and five liabilities (credit lines and real estate financing) that are each worth between $1,000,001 and $5,000,000, in addition to a few smaller items. So though CQ Roll Call takes the lower estimates for all of these and concludes Valadao is $3.7 million underwater, his true net worth could actually be positive, or much more hugely negative. (Read more about CQ Roll Call's methodology from Steven Dennis here.)
The only members here with an estimated net worth of less than negative $1 million are Valadao and Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), who still owes legal bills from a scandal during his tenure as a federal judge in the 1980s (he was tried for bribery, acquitted, but then impeached and removed from office by Congress, before being elected to Congress himself).
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), who became the new House GOP whip this year, also shows up here, and is estimated to be $670,000 underwater. But again, that's because he disclosed two home mortgages and two second mortgages, with the value of his homes themselves not being taken into account. Head over to CQ Roll Call's analysis for much more.