Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich dubbed the national debt a "burden for our children for life."
Ex-Rep. Dennis Kucinich vilified Republicans for adding, by his calculations, $4 trillion to it.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, meanwhile, predicted debt will precipitate a future of "indentured servitude to foreign lenders."
What unites these and other presidential candidates is that they themselves are in debt. Campaign debt.
It's a dubious distinction shared by Democrats and Republicans, eccentric nonagenarians and White House occupants.
Such debt isn't really hurting anyone but creditors — certainly not the nation nor its creditworthiness.
But it is a reminder that despite candidates' soaring rhetoric about fiscal responsibility, they often fail to follow their own prescription for sound budgetary management amid the relentless rush to remain competitive with political rivals during election seasons that are longer and more expensive than ever.
Until the debts are paid, the federal government requires former candidates in most cases to keep their campaign committees open and, technically, active, meaning some of the indebtedness stretches back decades.
Following are the nation’s top presidential campaign deadbeats who still find themselves at least $100,000 in the red, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission:
1.) Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.
Election year: 2012
The back story: For a moment in December 2011, Gingrich appeared to have requisite momentum in his bid to capture the Republican presidential nomination. And then, the moment passed. That didn't stop the former House speaker from continuing to spend lavishly on his flagging campaign, which finally petered out in April 2012 when it became clear rival Mitt Romney would capture the GOP banner. Among the dozens of debts totaling nearly $4.6 million the Newt 2012 presidential committee still owes as of March 31: more than $983,000 to Moby Dick Airways for chartered air travel and more than $413,000 to the Patriot Group for private security services. Gingrich's campaign also owes Gingrich himself about $647,500. Other vendors waiting for Gingrich to pay them back include Twitter (nearly $13,000 for a media buy), Herman Cain Solutions (more than $16,500 for "strategic consulting/travel”) and Verizon Wireless ($862 for cell phone service). The committee also disputes about $130,000 worth of bills from vendors. Gingrich has of late attempted to raise money to pay down his debt by renting the personal information of his supporters to data companies. But the income has barely made a dent in his obligations, which at one point reached nearly $5 million. Gingrich has also created the Committee for America, a federal joint fundraising committee that states it’s raising money for the dual purpose of retiring his presidential committee’s debt and funding a separate political action committee he runs — the American Legacy PAC, which most recently reported about $60,000 in available cash after having spent most of its money late last year on telemarketing expenses. Gingrich officials did not return requests for comment, although a former spokesperson R.C. Hammond last year explained: "Our preference is obviously not to have gone into debt. If we could eliminate the debt overnight, we would. But realistically, this will take years."
2.) Lyndon LaRouche, Democrat
Election years: 1984, 2000, 2004
The back story: An eight-time presidential candidate who attracts a passionate, if fringe following, the 90-year-old LaRouche never paid many of his 1984 campaign's phone, rent, legal and data bills, which are now almost 30 years old, according to federal filings. The campaign committee also hasn't settled dozens of small, unsecured loans made by individuals to the campaign. In all, the 1984 campaign alone owes $1.22 million. It's probably no wonder: LaRouche served more than five years in federal prison after a federal jury convicted him of fraud and conspiracy. He exited prison in 1994 and again ran for president in 1996, 2000 and 2004, with his final campaign committee owing about $1.06 million. Two other LaRouche presidential committees report smaller debts. Representatives for LaRouche, who today leads the LaRouche PAC political action committee, could not be reached for comment. Democratic Party officials say they have no comment on LaRouche’s debt, as they maintain no association with LaRouche or his past campaigns.