Images courtesy of DonkeyHotey.com under the Creative Commons terms and policies
In the first of these articles, we listed eight Washington elites who share the condition of “aging out.” But by no means is that group limited to just eight. The list is long and populated with some interesting characters we should understand better. We also need to observe how the political parties “change their stripes” over time and swap places on the political spectrum.
When I was growing up the Republican Party was the party thought to be populated by the wealthy and the Democratic Party was for working people. Today wealth is spread around more evenly and the political class in Washington is now influenced by the ultra-wealthy who control PAC money. While it may be true that there are some in both parties who represent working class people, it is more likely today that each party is populated and controlled by the very wealthy.
Once we expand beyond the “Halls of Congress” and look at a wider group of politicians the discussion becomes more colorful, and in many ways more interesting. Congress is ripe for discussion because of the concentration of older politicians, but our issues range far and wide.
Please take a minute to look back at our earlier list and hopefully have a laugh or two at their expense. After all these are the people sending our Country into financial oblivion and they owe you that much.
At 76 Mitt Romney is one of the younger gerontocrats in our list. He is and was an excellent businessman. His work with the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics was exemplary and worth noting. It was that success that propelled him into the political arena in my opinion. His political career includes the Governorship of Massachusetts, and the 2012 Republican Nominee for President. In 2019 he became a Senator from Utah. If that were not enough, he holds honorary doctorates from at least nine universities. He is a prominent figure in the LDS Church.
But business and not politics is his source of wealth, and with an estimated net worth of $300 million he was obviously successful. After progressing through several successful consulting groups, he landed at Bain Capital at just the right time. During his tenure they made significant profits from leveraged buyouts and Romney was a beneficiary of their success. At least he made his money before going to Washington.
We all must have a little chuckle at 81-year-old Bernie Sanders because he is one of the most entertaining and controversial Socialist on the scene in Washington. Bernie lists himself as an Independent but has singlehandedly dragged the Democrats further and further left until the dividing line between a Democrat and a Socialist has been blurred. Serving first in the House and now in the Senate, Bernie has been on the Government dole since 1981, a forty-two-year record of service. Not wanting to limit his influence just in Congress, Bernie ran for President in 2016 and 2020. He is an activist for anti-war, feminism, anti-racism, LGBTQ+ rights, climate change, and Medicare for all. His activism dates to his school days at the University of Chicago where he was never one to let a cause pass without taking part. At school he joined the Young People’s Socialist League, Congress for Racial Equality, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee,
As an avowed Socialist Bernie has kept his net worth below the average for the Senate. But it is difficult to discern if this is by design or just financial incompetence. He has followed the same path as others with book deals, so his lack of wealth might reflect poor sales of his tomes. As a Socialist elite Bernie and his wife, Mary Jane O’Meara visited the Soviet Union on their honeymoon. In the past she served as president of Burlington College and Goddard College but left Burlington under unfavorable circumstances. Accusations of bank fraud at Burlington College contributed to its closure in 2016. She has a net worth of approximately $1 million. With a combined net worth approaching $4 million and three homes, the Sanders are not wealthy by Senate standards, but not poor by working class Socialist standards either.
Kathleen Sebelius is on the young end of this group at only 75 but that does not mean she is new to politics. She served as the Secretary of Health and Human Services from 2009 until 2014 under President Obama. Like many on our list she is just carrying on the family business by serving. Her father was Governor of Ohio and served one term as a Representative in the house. He was still serving as Governor in 2003 at the same time she was governor of Kansas, making them the only father-daughter combination in our history to hold simultaneous gubernatorial positions. And to keep it all in the family her husband, Gary Sebelius is the son of former Republican Congressman Keith Sebelius.
The list of posts held by Sebelius reads like someone climbing the corporate ladder, but within the public sphere only. A lobbyist for the Kansas Trial Lawyers, Kansas House of representatives, Kansas Insurance Commissioner, Governor of Kansas, and finally Secretary of HHS. In 2014 she resigned for violation of the Hatch Act, a minor issue by current standards.
Her reported net worth of $5 million seems questionable and low since she earns about $800 thousand, and her husband earns approximately $1 million annually. Technically she is no longer in an official government role. But since leaving office she now works with Common Cause, the Kaiser Foundation, Dole Institute of Politics, and the Aspen Institute. She is still quietly influential in Washington and has not exited the stage.
Representative Steny Hoyer has a long relationship with Nancy Pelosi and at 84 has been in the House of Representatives since 1981. Always Pelosi’s right-hand man, he has served at the Majority or Minority Leader in the House since 2011. But Hoyer’s personal political career started much earlier in 1967 when he began serving in the Maryland Senate. Hoyer’s political career, and connections, started in college when he and Nancy Pelosi both served on the staff of U. S. Senator Daniel Brewster. Armed with a new law degree from Georgetown University he of course went straight into politics and won a newly formed seat in the Maryland Senate.
Many sources peg his net worth at no more than $5 million and if true then he learned no lessons from the Pelosi’s. His total net worth would be no more than six months income for them. But to his credit he seems to have a habit of giving away much of the campaign money he receives to other candidates. His press image is one of a dapper, elder stateman. After being a widower for decades he is recently married to Elaine Kamarck, a policy strategist at the Brookings Institute, but earlier a member of Bill Clinton’s administration.
In recent years, no Democrat has been in the news more than the high priestess of finance, 77-year-old Janet Yellen. Whether you go for the extreme and think she is the reincarnation of “Zip the Pinhead,” or just the class dunce, she has supplied some classic lines. Always willing to carry the Party banner on any financial issue, she became famous for the “Inflation is Transitory” line. Serving as both Chairman of the FED and Secretary of the Treasury has given her the ability to influence fiscal and monetary policy like no other. If you look at our nation’s finances and see anything you do not like it is highly likely that she was instrumental in its implementation.
With hundreds of Ph.D.’s at her disposal she was completely clueless about the 2008 financial crisis, thought our current inflation woes were transitory, and completely missed the dilatory effect of interest rate hikes on banks. To add to the confusion is that she is married to George Akerlof, a Nobel Prize recipient in Economic Sciences. She has accumulated a net worth of approximately $20 million. But with her ability to influence markets and economic trends, 20 million would have been easy. Not to be outdone by Mitt Romney, she holds ten honorary Ph.D.’s and has enough honors and fellowships under her belt to impress all her colleagues in academia.
As one who hates banks, especially big banks, Elizabeth Warren at 74 has accumulated some surprising wealth. While unsuccessfully trying to beat down CEOs like Jamie Diamond she quietly accumulated a net worth of roughly $12 million. Her annual Senate salary of $285,000 is chump change to her income from investments and book deals. She has published eleven books and with an estimated $4.6 million in royalties this has become her primary source of income and wealth.
Always a champion of the “little guy” and indigenous people, she owns two homes worth more than $4 million. Warren’s rise to fame has come with some ups and downs. Twice a Presidential candidate, she has served in the Senate since 2013. Senator Warren is not blessed with degrees from prestigious universities but did receive a law degree from Rutgers in 1976. Let us not forget her tenure at Harvard where, as a self-identified “Native American,” she received preferential consideration for a teaching position.
No one, and I mean no one, is more entertaining in American politics than 85-year-old Maxine Waters. From facial expressions to extreme comments, to protests, she has done it all. With a twenty-year history of California service that started in 1966, she was propelled to the U. S. House in 1991. For thirty-two years she has served and provided some unforgettable moments. California cannot complain, they reelected her seventeen times. A supporter of Louis Farrakhan, she has been frequently criticized by Jewish organizations.
Unlike many of her colleagues, Waters has not done well financially. From several sources her net worth is only $2 million, well below average for Congress. Her lack of financial understanding can be seen in her conduct during the Financial Services Committee Hearing questioning and blaming bank CEOs for student loans they do not make (they are made by the Federal Government) is a classic.
To her credit she taught in intercity schools while in college. That seems to have been her starting point for living off taxpayers. From there she worked briefly in the private sector before landing a job with the City of Los Angeles, then to the California State Assembly, and then on to the House of Representatives. From 1966 until today she has drawn a government paycheck in some form, a remarkable record of almost fifty-seven years.
Unlike Bernie Sanders and Kathleen Sebelius, fellow Democrat John Kerry has not shied away from the wealthy. When he entered the Senate, he had a modest trust fund from his mother of around $100,000. But his family had access to enormous wealth. While his parents were upper middle class, his mother’s extended family paid for much of his education at elite boarding schools in Europe. His real wealth came from his marriage to Teresa Heinz who was worth an estimated $500 million. Although Kerry has a law degree and briefly worked in the private sector, he found public service more to his liking. He entered public service in 1982 and is still there forty-one years later.
At 79 Kerry has a reported net worth of $250 million and lives in Massachusetts in a seven-bedroom home on nineteen acres valued at more than $12 million. In his later years he now serves as the Climate Tsar while traveling around in private jets and yachts. He has had significant difficulty explaining the conflict between his job and his carbon footprint, but reportedly buys carbon offsets to justify his lifestyle.
Kerry has held many top Government jobs, so his Senate stint was just a waystation along the road of public service. Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, to U. S. Senator, Secretary of State, and now as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate he has done it all.
More Profiles to Come
The study of our older set is a gift that just keeps on coming. In just the Senate there are 34 members who are 70 or older. There are many other colorful and entertaining politicians to document.
Resources Used in This Article
Finty.com, various searches for each politician.
Investopedia.com, various searches for each politician.
List of current members of the United States Congress by wealth, Wikipedia.com.
List of richest American politicians, Wikipedia.org.
Majority of lawmakers in 116th Congress are millionaires, by Karl Evers-Hillstrom, OpenSecrets.org, April 23, 2020.
WealthyGorilla.com, various searches for each politician.
WealthyPersons.com, various searches for each politician.
Wikipedia.org various searches for each politician.