How Can a Member of Congress Report No Assets?

Every year, Members of Congress must file a “full and complete” financial disclosure to give the public the opportunity to judge official actions in light of potential financial conflicts. A key component of disclosing finances is reporting assets. Reportable assets include pensions, certain bank accounts, mutual funds, and college savings accounts. So with Members of Congress earning $174,000 a year, how can some members not even report a checking account?

According to 2019 financial disclosure records, five Members of Congress reported having no assets.

While some assets are not required to be disclosed (personal homes and non-interest bearing bank accounts for one thing), it seems unusual that individuals with such an extensive public footprint would have no assets to report.

For instance, Representatives Meeks and Omar are both former state representatives, a position that comes with a state pension. If either are participating in their state’s retirement program, that asset would need to be reported.

If any of these Members of Congress do have assets to report, but are willfully leaving them off of their annual financial disclosure, they could stand in contravention to federal law and House rules.