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A Washington, D.C. publication monitoring Congress, The Hill, identified Ackerman last week as one of 40 legislators who had more than $10,000 in credit card debt in 2003 to 2004, based on an analysis of financial disclosure reports. Members of Congress make around $158,000 a year, plus benefits.Ackerman said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he transfers high credit card balances from one account to another as a savvy financial maneuver. "You can get a real deal as long as you can pay them off," he said. The Hill said Ackerman had debt in the range of $50,000 to $100,000 in his 2003-2004 financial disclosure statement, which would make him the top-ranking New York representative in terms of debt, according to the newspaper. But Ackerman's spokesman, Jordan Goldes, said the financial reports distort the real figures because legislators are required to report the debt on each credit card regardless of whether the balances were transferred, adding up to a total that may not be accurate. Goldes said Ackerman moves his debt to take advantage of credit cards that offer initial periods with zero interest and never fails to pay off the debt. In the early 1990s, Ackerman and other House members were criticized for reportedly misusing Congressional privileges and bouncing checks written on personal accounts held at the U.S. House of Representatives' bank. The TimesLedger reported in 1992 that at one point, he had 119 overdrafts on his House account, including a $60,000 purchase of a Treasury bill that did not clear because of what Ackerman called an administrative mistake because he failed to fill out the check properly. After the bounced checks scandal, dubbed "Rubbergate," the House closed its bank.Ackerman, who has represented the 5th Congressional District in northeast Queens and parts of Long Island for 22 years, holds a seat on the House Committee on Financial Services as well as the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit. Congress is scheduled to soon vote on a major bankruptcy bill that would expand the power of banks and credit card companies to seek repayment from debtors who have filed for bankruptcy. Ackerman said he opposes the bill.Despite what he contended is misrepresentation of the extent of his debt in the media, the congressman said he welcomed the examination of his finances as a necessity in politics and had nothing to hide."Right now I have zero credit card debt," Ackerman said. He showed no sign of abandoning his unorthodox methods. "For too long I got ripped off by credit card companies. I'm a smarter consumer now," he said. "I'm waiting. Just come and offer me the free money."Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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