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The claim: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is worth more than $1 million
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., has supported raising the minimum wage, forgiving student loan debt and increasing taxes for the wealthy.
Now, in recent social media posts, Facebook users are raising questions about the New
York congresswoman’s personal wealth.
“How does that happen???” the user asked.
Financial disclosures that members of Congress are required to file show that it didn’t. Ocasio-Cortez reported assets of between $2,003 and $31,000 in her most recent financial disclosure, filed in September 2020, and student loan debt between $15,000 and $50,000.
While an analysis of financial disclosures by the Center for Responsive Politics last year found that the majority of members of Congress are millionaires, Ocasio-Cortez would not be one of them.
Two Facebook users who shared the post did not respond to requests for comment.
AOC’s net worth
Ocasio-Cortez’s story of bartender-turned-congresswoman after upending an incumbent Democrat in a safely blue New York district is well documented. Through most of her 20s, Ocasio-Cortez “lived paycheck to paycheck,” according to Time.
When she took office in 2019, Ocasio-Cortez reported in her first financial disclosure that she had a checking account, a brokerage account and a 401(k) plan through the National Hispanic Institute that were worth between $3,003 and $45,000.
Her student loan debt through the U.S. Department of Education at the time was listed as between $15,001 and $50,000. During a September 2019 hearing on student loan debt, Ocasio-Cortez said she made a payment that had reduced her student loan debt to $19,000.
Income from the taco restaurant where she tended bar and from her 2018 congressional campaign totaled $25,463. Members of Congress are paid $174,000 a year.
After that report, the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org ranked Ocasio-Cortez as one of the poorest members of Congress, where more than half of members have a net worth of at least $1 million.
The congresswoman filed her next financial disclosure in September 2020. By then, she reported that the same three accounts held between $2,003 and $31,000 and that her student loan debt remained the same at between $15,001 and $50,000.
Based on the $19,000 in student loan debt Ocasio-Cortez said she had in September 2019, she could be in the hole to the tune of nearly $17,000. Or her she could be worth up to $12,000.
Ocasio-Cortez spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said the financial disclosure reports are accurate but provided no additional comment.
Political fundraising takes off
While financial disclosures show that Ocasio-Cortez’s personal wealth has not skyrocketed during her time in Congress, her political fundraising has taken off alongside her national profile, according to Federal Elections Commission filings.
During the 2020 election cycle, Ocasio-Cortez’s reelection campaign spent $17.3 million after raking in $21.2 million. That left her with about $4.3 million in her campaign coffers, according to the FEC.
When she scored a surprise victory during the 2018 Democratic primary, Ocasio-Cortez spent about $1.8 million of the $2.2 million she raised.
The Courage to Change political action committee the congresswoman launched last year to back progressive candidates challenging incumbent Democrats spent about $335,000 out of the $842,000 it raised, according to the FEC.
She also raised about $5 million in February for Texans hit by a winter storm that left millions in the state without power, CNN reported.
Our ruling: False
We rate the claim that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has racked up more than $1 million in net worth as a member of Congress FALSE, based on our research. In her most recent financial disclosure, filed in September 2020, Ocasio-Cortez reported between $2,003 and $31,000 in assets, compared with student loan debt of between $15,000 and $50,000.
Our fact-check sources:
The New York Times, June 27, 2018, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Emerges as a Political Star"
Time, March 21, 2019, "'Change Is Closer Than We Think.' Inside Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Unlikely Rise"
U.S. House of Representatives, accessed March 9, 2018 financial disclosure for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
USA TODAY, Sept. 10, 2019, "AOC makes student loan payment during congressional hearing on student loans"
U.S. House of Representatives Press Gallery, accessed March 9, Salaries
Open Secrets, accessed March 9, "Freshmen in the 116th Congress net worth"
U.S. House of Representatives, accessed March 9, 2019 financial disclosure for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Federal Election Commission, accessed March 9, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 2020 election campaign finance report
Federal Election Commission, accessed March 9, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 2018 election campaign finance report
National Public Radio, Feb. 21, 2020, "Rep. Ocasio-Cortez Launches Political Group To Boost Progressive Candidates"
Federal Election Commission, accessed March 9, Courage to Change political action committee campaign finance report
CNN, Feb. 21, "AOC raises nearly $5 million in Texas relief efforts"
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's net worth doesn't top $1M