Kerry Bentivolio, the reindeer rancher turned Congressman, files for bankruptcy

Mar 3, 2015 at 11:59 am

Kerry Bentivolio, a former Santa Claus impersonator turned surprise congressman following the downfall of Thaddeus McCotter, has succumbed to crippling financial debt stemming from his time in D.C. In his Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition filed in Detroit, Bentivolio lists nearly $295,000 in debt against roughly $270,000 reported assets.

Bentivolio’s financial perils began during his run in the Republican primary last August against David Trott, a Birmingham-based attorney, who earned his keep by assisting banks on foreclosures. After his campaign manager sued him last year, claiming past-due managing expenses, Bentivolio was ordered to pay $120,000 in damages.

With only $200 in cash reported on hand, Bentivolio is swimming in debt related to that court battle: He owes about $55,000 in legal fees, according to his bankruptcy petition.

Bentivolio, a Mildford resident who once quipped “I truly believe there is a Santa Claus,” embarked on a political journey as a Tea Party favorite who humored chemtrail conspiracy theorists, also made headlines for his part-time reindeer farming history. Bentivolio told The Detroit News earlier this year he sold his reindeer to cover his bills, which must have been devastating for a guy who loves Christmas.

While the Left and plenty on the Right don’t see eye-to-eye with Bentivolio on virtually anything, he did present a test case as a compelling political candidate in the age of Big Money Politics. The response to his candidacy from Oakland County Republicans was one of repulsion. The likes of Brooks Patterson, the county’s executive, couldn’t fathom the thought of an oddball reindeer farmer representing Oakland in Congress. So establishment Republicans threw their weight behind a failed write-in candidacy. Bentivolio prevailed, but it cost him dearly.

Unfortunately, now, St. Nick won’t be of any assistance to Bentivolio in his time of need: Listed under his personal property, Bentivolio reported an interest in a company called The Old Fashioned Santa LLC. The company, according to his bankruptcy filing, is appraised at $1 and “believed to be worthless.”

Still, even in light of his troubles, Bentivolio highlighted what is so utterly true about the state of federal politics today: It’s damn hard for an average Joe to get into politics. As he put it to The Detroit News in December, “This is what happens when a regular guy gets an opportunity to come to Congress.”

Asked by the News’ David Shepardson what he would do after leaving Congress, Bentivolio responded, “I plan to follow in the footsteps of Jesus: broke and homeless.”