Dem Worth Millions Plays Poor in New Campaign Ad

Cheri Bustos ad claims "tough times" for congresswoman's family

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D., Ill.) with President Barack Obama / AP

Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois is airing a new ad stating that her family has seen "tough times" and that they sometimes "sit around the table and tighten our belt." Her financial disclosures tell a much different story.

Bustos' new ad says that she and her husband would work opposite shifts to "feed our boys."

"Like a lot of families, we’ve seen good times, and tough times," says Bustos. "We’d sit around the table and tighten our belt when needed."

This has been a theme for Bustos since she first ran for office in 2011.

"If you’re wondering what’s motivating me to run for Congress," she said in a 2011 campaign speech. "I believe what we need are more every day people, who are raising families on two incomes, who clip coupons before they go to the grocery store, and who have to balance their checkbooks."

However, Bustos was estimated to have a net worth of more than $3.6 million in 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

In 2011, she brought in two salaries, one from Iowa Health Systems worth $214,229 and one from Iowa communications firm ZLR Ignition worth $60,049, according to her financial disclosure statement as a candidate in 2012.

Her salary in 2010 from the Iowa Health System alone was $306,295, including bonuses.

Her husband’s salary as a police officer is not disclosed on the forms. The value of his pension is also not listed, with the explanation that the "value [will be] determined at retirement."

Bustos won her election in Illinois’ 17th district in 2012 and the family bought a condominium in Washington, D.C., in December of that year. Records show that the Capitol Hill property was purchased by Bustos for $265,000, and is now valued at $281,960.

Bustos currently collects the default salary of $174,000 as a member of the House of Representatives.

Bustos' attempt to portray her family as one that faces tough financial choices might have something to do with the voters she is relying on for reelection. Last year, the 17th district was the second poorest district in the state of Illinois with a median household income of $41,194, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Bustos campaign did not respond to a request for comment.