Meet the poorest member of Congress: A California dairy farmer


Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) said his colleagues tease him about being the poorest member of Congress.

“They offer to buy me lunch,” the second-term dairy farmer told the Los Angeles Times. “Especially the guys that know me and know my business really enjoy making fun of me. Luckily, the banks think it’s funny too.”

He made the remarks as Roll Call released its new annual ranking of lawmakers by minimum net worth, and as the Times for the first time published every asset and liability disclosed by the 55 members of the state’s congressional delegation.


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Valadao was the “poorest” member of Congress for the second year in a row with a minimum net worth of negative $8.7 million. What does that mean exactly? Lawmakers are allowed to use broad ranges used to classify assets and liabilities on the annual personal financial disclosure reports.

Valadao thinks those forms give an inaccurate representation of what members are actually worth. The ranges start at $1 to $1,000 and top out at $50 million or more, giving an imprecise figure.

He listed a minimum of $1.3 million in assets that he and his wife, Terra, hold for the family farms, Valadao and Triple V Dairies. They also hold at least $10 million in debt — lines of credit for the farmland and farming equipment.

“Most people in my district know I’m in a partnership with my family,” Valadao said. The reports “only take my assets versus the whole company’s debts. I’ll be upside-down as long as I’m a partner. Until that changes, I’ll continue to be there on that list.”

More than $8.25 million of Valadao’s liabilities are held by Rabobank, known for working with the agriculture industry. As much as 99 percent of his money is tied up in real estate.


Other Californians at the bottom of our state ranking using Roll Call’s data were Reps. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) with an estimated net worth of negative $619,000; Norma Torres (D-Pomona) with negative $550,000; Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) with negative $515,000 and Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) with negative $454,000.

Keep in mind, the disclosure rules make these all skewed figures. Lawmakers are not required to disclose property owned unless it is earning income, and they also do not need to list their $174,000 annual salaries, putting each and every one of them above the average Californian.

Things to know about Valadao:

Valadao is one of three vulnerable Republicans in California’s delegation flagged for extra help last spring by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Valadao supports comprehensive immigration reform.

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