Salazar financial disclosure sets Coloradan apart from Team Obama

Ken Salazar at a Sept. 15, 2008 Barack Obama rally in Grand Junction, Colo. (Photo/Topher Simon, Flickr)
Ken Salazar at a Sept. 15, 2008 Barack Obama rally in Grand Junction, Colo. (Photo/Topher Simon, Flickr)
Within hours of inviting ProPublica.org readers to peek at Team Obama’s financial disclosures Thursday, one unusual finding came to light from the paperwork on Ken Salazar, secretary of the Interior Department.

It shows that he has up to $200,000 in outstanding debt, a sharp contrast to the many millionaires serving in Obama’s Cabinet and on his senior staff.

We were alerted to Salazar’s disclosure by Jane Johnson, who in her e-mail to us noted, “Poor Ken is saddled with a bunch of student loans.”

A call to Salazar’s office clarified the matter.

Salazar, 54, has long since paid off his own student loans, so the debt represents loans he co-signed for his daughter’s college expenses. The debt is listed at between $80,000 and $200,000, because the disclosures provide ranges, not specific numbers.

It’s probably not surprising that Salazar had to take out loans for his daughter’s education, since he’s been receiving a government paycheck for the last 10 years. He has a ranch and occasionally has had a private law practice, but he’s also served two terms as Colorado’s attorney general and has been in the U.S. Senate since 2005. Something also tells us he didn’t get rich from his days as director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

“Secretary Salazar is really committed to public service,” his press secretary, Kendra Barkoff, told us. “He’s doing this because he wants to make a difference.”

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