September 12th, 2008
06:13 PM ET
9 years ago

Biden tax returns revealed

Sen. Biden campaigned in St. Louis earlier this week.

Sen. Biden campaigned in St. Louis earlier this week.

(CNN) - Joe Biden's newly released tax returns appear to confirm what the Democratic VP candidate has long contended - he is among the poorest U.S. senators currently serving.

At least half the nation’s senators are millionaires. But Biden and his wife Jill earned a relatively small $320,000 in 2006, paying about $66,000 in taxes. Over the last 10 years Biden and his wife earned just shy of $2.5 million - an average income of roughly $245,000 per year.

The Obama campaign released the 10 years worth of documents earlier Friday, in part to pressure the McCain campaign to do the same with Sarah Palin and her husband Todd's returns.

“The last eight years have brought Americans' faith in their government to its lowest point in over thirty years," Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said. "The only answer is to change the way we do business in Washington. That starts with something as simple as transparency. That's why Senator Biden is releasing his tax returns for the last 10 years."

A McCain aide told CNN Friday the campaign would release Palin's documents, but on their "own timeframe."

The Bidens' returns do not specify the various sources of the income, but the Delaware Democrat earns $165,000 per year as a senator and draws roughly $20,000 annually from his visiting law professorship at Widener University. Jill Biden is a teacher in Delaware and draws a salary of about $66,000. The 2007 tax returns also indicate Biden earned $71,000 in royalties for his book "Promises to Keep."

Biden, who does not hold a second residence in Washington and commutes back to Delaware daily via Amtrak train, often jokes about his relatively poor financial standing on the campaign trail. His modes net worth is also touted by the Obama campaign as a sign Biden has not become a creature of Washington or a fixture on its cocktail circuit.

"I make a good salary, although I am listed as the second-poorest man in this Congress," Biden said in Missouri last week. "I’m not proud of it. I’m not proud of it. But that’s what happens when you get elected when you’re 29 years old."

The newly released tax returns also show the Bidens have given substantially less to charity as a proportion of their income than both Barack Obama and John McCain. In 2007, Biden donated $995 to charitable organizations, or 0.3 percent of his pre-taxed income. That compares to the 5.7 percent of income the Obamas donated to charity last year and the 26 percent John McCain gave away.

As a U.S. senator, Biden released a financial disclosure form earlier this year in which he valued his assets at between $59,000 and $360,000. He also reported liabilities of between $140,000 and $365,000.

"When the last listing came out, they listed my net worth as between 70 and 150,000 dollars and Rush Limbaugh said ‘How can this guy manage our economy, he doesn’t have any money?’" Biden also said at that Missouri campaign stop. "Well, I thought the deal was, when you went to work for the government you weren’t supposed to make money!"

Filed under: Joe Biden
soundoff (423 Responses)
  1. Justin, ny

    Thank you, Mr. Biden, for your honesty.

    The ball is in your court McCain/Palin..

    September 12, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  2. Al

    Can we finally elect good people? Not son of a president, not son of an admiral, not a creationist which scares s... out of me by her very first interview. Is Iraq not enough?

    McCain = Bush + Bad temper
    Palin = Bush + Lipstick + Even more extremism

    And, please, even if you're a hard core republican, please don't offend pigs. They are smart animals.

    Obama/Biden 2008

    September 12, 2008 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  3. Myst

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I'm glad there are no skeletons, but Hell, Id' be happy to make what they pay in taxes!!

    September 12, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  4. Mark - NY

    We the democrats are not going to lose sight of the Issues!
    The Rupblican are doin their darnest best to distract the voters with nonsense!
    Stick to the Issues I cant send my kids to school on non sense!
    All I see from the GOP is lies, smears and more lies!
    Looks like Palin was not properly Vetted. Thats what you get for 1 meeting and a 15 min phone call! Wow what judgment!
    No Way
    No How
    No McCain/Failin

    September 12, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  5. Ridgeway

    Senator Biden your raise will be effective when you are.

    September 12, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  6. AM

    I always respected Biden. Great guy! Good choice Obama.

    September 12, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  7. Change you can believe in bu can't actually DEFINE

    Interesting that CNN is exceptionally slow to post or allow the posting of comments discussing the chosen one and his Washington Insider toadie in the negative...

    Hillary 2012.

    September 12, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  8. Jim

    This guy is one of us, he puts on the suit, and gets to work, just like any of us, to feed his family, and maybe even make a difference, like he did for women's rights and women abuse victims.

    I aspecially like their call for our politicians to be more transparent, so we can weed out the corrupt.

    September 12, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  9. JusLaugh

    Hey! How about that! Obama meant it when he said that he would insist on more transparency ingovernment. Nice job following through, Joe!

    I wonder how the republicans are going to spin this one to keep themselves from having to become accountable.

    September 12, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  10. Sarah, Northern Colorado

    Good for you, Joe! Way to hold true to your roots 🙂

    September 12, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  11. We need Hillary

    Biden and Obama understand the lives of working Americans. Sarah Palin probably does also.

    What does McCain know? He wears 500 dollar shoes and doesn't even know how many houses he owns.

    McCain is out of touch, and he is being exposed as a liar- just ask the hosts of The View.

    September 12, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  12. george

    This comment is from an Alaskan that has witnessed Sarah Palin in action.

    Biden is a politician but Palin is a political snake. It will be interesting to examine her finances.

    What a total farce! Sarah Palin didn't go "after big oil". She got elected by big oil bribing the state treasury with billions of dollars. Of course Alaskans voted for her, they were bribed with a bigger oil check. Most folks won't turn down free money.

    This whole Palin maverick thing has been planned by them for years to put her into play on the Republican ticket.

    Anyone who gets in her way is fired or eliminated, and she is moving state jobs one by one from Juneau to Anchorage/Wasilla (where the Alaskan big oil offices are located) at the expense of financial ruin for the people of Juneau. (She promised in her campaign for Governor that she had no intention of doing this.)

    Anyone who would vote to put this sneaky, opportunistic, manipulative liar a heartbeat away from the Presidency is, quite frankly & unequivocally, an idiot!

    September 12, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  13. FL Carole

    Rush Limbach? How can anyone take a recreational drug-taker seriously? Living in Rush's "backyard," not many of us take him seriously or at all-Biden's financials show he's not taking any "gifts" He hasn't profited personally from being in the Senate. An honest politician? What a concept! I think that his tax records show that he is far more "financially in touch" with more Americans, can relate to the costs of education and healthcare and, understands budgets. These are, ofcourse, concerns that neither the Bushes not McCain have had.

    September 12, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  14. Republicans Hate America

    Ha lets see you repugs spin this one that he is an elitist and make all the hillbillies that support you believe it.

    September 12, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  15. Alex

    What about Cindy McCain's returns?

    September 12, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  16. Hahaha

    The "Scrappy Kid from Scranton" never ceases to amaze me, Biden all the way, this is the kind of character we need running the US government. No doubt about it.

    September 12, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  17. John, NC

    Biden stiffed Bruce Riddle for over $15,000 worth of work on his 1988 Presidential campaign financial disclosure engagement. He refused to pay once he dropped out of the race. In his latest run for President, Biden chartered over $150,000 worth of airtime. He refuses to pay saying the race is over and he is out of money.

    September 12, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  18. Pedro

    Obviously he can't give as much money to charity as Obama or McCain if he doesn't has nearly that amount of money.

    Probably if he had 7 houses and a rich wife, he could afford to give more to charity.

    September 12, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  19. Martin Agnew

    As nearly the poorest senator, Biden is still a rich man to me. The best thing for this country would be for hefty increase in high income tax rates to be introduced. Those who hold power generally can control their salaries raising them disproportionately to the worth of their jobs. America does not need more high paid administrators and politicians – take it away from them with very high upper bracket taxes.

    September 12, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  20. Sandy - PA

    OK, now let's have McCain's and Palin's. And remember how this same issue became a huge problem for Clinton. So they better do it NOW.

    September 12, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  21. Jerry D

    This story was going great till you mentioned Limbaugh's comment. McCain will not devulge such information of course, we have been hounding him here in Az for years and he continues to dodge all attempts. His worth is rediculous in comparison to Biden, as well as shady when it comes to those friends he keeps in our state. I am sure that they will wait on the Palin returns as long as they can. She made more money in the last 2 years as Gov of Alaska than Biden did in the last 10. That money was made with underhanded deals and back door loby guided investments. When the people of Alaska are worse off than when she took over, that should tell Limbaugh who is not capable of handling a budget.

    September 12, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  22. S. Boatman

    The Mccain Camp Will Label You As An Elitest Because Of Your Book Royalties!

    September 12, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  23. Joe Will Be Our Next VP

    Don't worry Joe, after you become VP, you will have a lifetime of travel and speaking engagements (like the Clintons), and you will be a millionaire too. I however, don't think this is what you're thinking about as you have been a public servant and a wonderful role model for decency and honor.

    Unlike some candidates, you did not cheat on your wife and leave her along with three kids.

    Kudos to a wonderful and regular JOE.

    Obama/Biden 08

    September 12, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  24. Maya

    hmm, and yet they say the dems are the elitists? how many houses do you have again, John McCain?

    September 12, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  25. Kristen

    I admit that I knew very little about him until I visted Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia last year (a region known as The Balkans and formerly known as Yugoslavia). Most of us know that there was a series of bitter wars in the 1990's as, one-by-one, the smaller regions of the former Yugoslavia declared independence from the governing Serbia region. It's very complicated, but that's the major piece of the story. A Serb leader named Slobadan Milosovich began a terrible campaign of genocide and essentially ignored most rules of engagement. The rest of the world ignored it the way they ignore Darfur now. Joe Biden went to investigate the situation, and then sat down with Milosovich. To Milosovich's face, Joe Biden flatly told him that he was a war criminal and that he would ensure this war ended. Biden and Clinton convinced the UN, and using a multi-national army, the war ended. Milosovich was arrested and tried as a war criminal.

    When I was in the region in 2007, there was obviously mixed reaction to the UN regarding this war, with the negative opinions typically stemming from Serb nationalists. I kept hearing people mention Joe Biden–a Croatian friend of mine flatteringly called it Biden's victory. I knew the name at that point, but that's about all. The common opinion is that without Biden's involvement, the genocide would have decimated the region, and many parts of The Balkans view him as a hero of diplomacy and essentially fearless. Those who hold negative opinions of the UN's intervention nontheless typically complimented Biden for having the resolve to meet with Milosovich when Europe essentially ignored the problem.

    Keep in mind that Joe Biden isn't a millionaire. He doesn't need to be in the spotlight. He gets major results and then does not go fishing for praise. The GOP criticized our involvement in the Balkan conflict at the time, but in 2008, most people in the world, and most of the GOP, view Biden's actions as a major win for American diplomacy and the morally correct thing to do.

    Yeah, I guess Palin's "being able to see Russia from an island in Alaska" is exactly like this, right? Obama/Biden 08

    September 12, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
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