Bernard Sanders takes the oath of office to become the mayor of Vermont’s largest city, Burlington, on April 6, 1981. Sanders formerly headed Vermont’s only major third party, the socialistic Liberty Union Party. (Photo: Donna Light/AP)
Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., has focused on income inequality throughout his presidential campaign.
Unlike most other White House hopefuls, Sanders isn’t part of the richest 1 percent of Americans. In fact, he’s one of the less well-to-do
members of the U.S. Senate. Still, as the 86th richest senator, Sanders has a net worth that Politico estimated at $419,000 as of last September, which means he’s come a long way since the beginning of his political career when he filed a terse financial disclosure form that detailed just how little he owned.
Sanders first entered politics as a candidate for Vermont’s Liberty Union Party, a radical, anti-war group that he helped found. He ran for different offices under the party’s banner four times between 1972 and 1976. All of those campaigns were unsuccessful and saw Sanders end up in the single digits.
In his 1976 gubernatorial bid, Sanders filed a financial disclosure report that reflected his unique background. A United Press International report dated July 27, 1976, described the “one-paragraph news release” Sanders sent out.
“I am making public my financial status,” Sanders said, adding, “Unfortunately there is not too much to report. At the present moment, I am ‘worth’ about $1,100, which includes a savings account and a 1967 car. I own no real estate, stocks, or bonds.”
Sanders, who had been a freelance writer and carpenter, was the least well off of the gubernatorial candidates, at least one of whom was a millionaire. Multiple reports about Sanders’ early political career described his car as being covered in rust.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator, Sanders’ $1,100 net worth in 1976 would be about $4,588.22 in 2015 dollars.
Sanders eventually left the Liberty Union Party and became an independent. In 1981, he was elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont’s largest city. The position initially came with a salary of $33,800, or a little over $88,000 in 2015 dollars. In an interview with the Associated Press a few months after he was elected, Sanders reflected on just how much his circumstances had changed.
“It’s so strange, just having money, things like that,” Sanders said. "For years I could never afford the rent, and now I’m looking over these budgets of thousands of dollars.“
Check out the report on Sanders’ 1976 financial disclosure below as it appeared in the local Bennington Banner newspaper.