Scott Walker Is Paying 27.24 Percent Interest on $10,000-Plus in Credit-Card Debt

Newly published financial disclosures show that the presidential hopeful has some major debt.

Republican presidential hopeful Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker sits for an interview during a visit to the famed Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago, Illinois.
National Journal
Aug. 3, 2015, 1:52 p.m.

Gov. Scott Walker has two credit-card debts of more than $10,000 apiece on separate cards and is paying an eye-popping 27.24 percent interest rate on one of them, new federal financial documents disclosed on Monday show.

The Republican presidential candidate has cast himself as both a fiscal conservative leader and a penny-pinching everyman on the campaign trail, often touting his love of Kohl’s, the discount department store. His newly published financial disclosure shows that, like many Americans, Walker has few assets, some major debts (including more than $100,000 for student loans for his children), and a punishing interest rate on his credit-card obligations.

Walker incurred one credit-card debt with Barclays in 2014, according to the financial disclosure form, and owed between $10,000 and $15,000 at a 27.24 percent interest rate as of July 2015. Most financial advisers recommend shedding credit-card debt as quickly as possible, especially when paying interest rates that high.

(RELATED: Hillary Clinton, Scott Walker, and the Future of Obama’s Climate Plan)

Walker, who has spent his adult life in elected office, is among the poorer Republican candidates for president. Donald Trump is worth billions. Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, and Ben Carson are all multimillionaires. All told, Walker listed only six investments worth between $1,000 and $15,000, a whole life insurance plan worth between $15,000 and $50,000, and a deferred compensation plan from Milwaukee County worth between $15,000 and $50,000.

His carrying of high-interest credit-card debt makes Walker the second major candidate with some eyebrow-raising personal finances. Earlier this year, rival Sen. Marco Rubio, also among the less-well-off politicians in the field, reported cashing out one of his retirement accounts, another move not recommended by many financial professionals.

“As a public servant, the governor gave back hundreds of thousands of his salary to the taxpayers, and he is a regular American with two kids in college and a small amount of credit card debt,” Walker spokeswoman AshLee Strong said.

Walker has carried at least some credit-card debt for four years, according to the disclosure form, despite a job as governor that paid him $222,899 since the start of 2014 (annualized, his salary is around $140,0000). In that time Walker also received a $45,000 advance for a book, Unintimidated, about his governorship.

(RELATED: Scott Walker’s Super PAC Raised $20 Million. Half of That Came from Two Donors.)

One of Walker’s credit-card debts, to Bank of America, dates back to 2011, his first year as governor, according to the disclosure form. Walker currently owes between $10,000 and $15,000 on that one, with an interest rate of 11.99 percent.

And that appears to be a substantial improvement. Walker’s state-level disclosure form in Wisconsin said that at the end of 2014 he had more than $50,000 in debts to Bank of America. That form did not identify the debt as a credit card, or list its interest rate.

On the Wisconsin form, Walker also listed a $5,000 to $50,000 debt to Sears Master Card as of the end of 2014. That debt does not appear on Walker’s federal disclosure, suggesting he paid it off.

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