Theoretically, any American can become President (or Senator or Representative or Governor or so on). Time has shown, though, that it helps if you are fabulously wealthy. What follows is the list of the richest living politicians in America, and how they got their money before entering the public sector.
12. Jane Harman
The Democratic representative of California’s 36th district has more financial worth than any other sitting member of the House, at approximately $215.11 million according to a report from US News and World Reports released after the last elections. After getting her law degree in 1969, she entered public service and has yet to leave. She has been in Congress since 1993, excluding two years she spent instead running for governor of California. How’d she make so much money then? Well, she married Sidney Harman, founder of audio equipment manufacturer Harman Kardon.
11. Herb Kohl
You’re probably thinking, “I’ve heard the name Kohl before. I’ve shopped at his store. It was called Kohl’s.” Well then you, sir or madam, have assumed correctly, as Herb and his brother inherited the store chain. He made his money through that and various real estate and stock market dealings, allowing him to purchase the Milwaukee Bucks in 1985. He has held one of Wisconsin’s Senate seats since 1988 as a member of the Democratic Party. With an estimated $215.85 million in assets, he edges out Jane Harman.
10. Jon Corzine
Another financial titan enters the list, the former Democratic Senator and Governor of New Jersey. He started working for investment bank Goldman Sachs in 1975, eventually becoming Chairman and CEO. He advocated the firm go public, however lost a subsequent power struggle on the board. But the selling of his share in the company netted him an estimated cool half-billion. He spent extensively on his campaigns for office, exiting the Governor’s seat earlier this year after losing to Chris Christie, and is worth an estimated $300 million.
9. Amo Houghton
The Republican who served as the Representative of New York’s 29th district from 1987-2005 comes next on our list. He belongs to the Houghton family, a prominent business family in the state after his great-great-grandfather started Corning Glass Works. Amo served as the Chairman and CEO of the family business for 20 years before eventually running for office. He stepped down after his ninth term in Congress, and is worth an estimated $475 million.
8. Mitt Romney
The former, and likely future, Republican Presidential nomination candidate and former governor of Massachusetts comes in number 8 on our list. Another businessman, Romney served as CEO of the management consulting firm Bain & Company before co-founding the spin-off Bain Capital. A devout Mormon, he also served as President and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, the organization in charge of the 2002 Winter Games in Utah’s capital. His net worth is estimated at $500 million.
7. John Kerry
With a middle name of Forbes, Kerry had better find a place on this list. The Democratic senior Senator of Massachusetts and 2004 Democratic Presidential Nominee is the benefactor of wealth from the two main women in his life, his mom and his wife. His mother Rosemary Forbes Kerry was a member of the wealthy Forbes family, and his current wife, Theresa Heinz Kerry, former member of the Heinz food family. Kerry and his family have more wealth than any other sitting member of either house of Congress, at an estimated $525 million.
6. Pete Coors
In order to get on this list, you probably need to come from old money. Like have an ancestor who created a company that is still ubiquitous to this day. Chances are, you still probably have the name. Like Pete Coors, the Chairman of Molson Coors Brewing Company and MillerCoors and descendant of Adolph Coors, one of the founders of the Denver-based brewery. The businessman won the Republican nomination for Senator from Colorado 2004, but lost in the general election. Hopefully his $750 million are comforting him some.
5. Arnold Schwarzenegger
I really shouldn’t have to explain how Arnold, the richest governor (and richest Governator for that matter), made his money. He is currently worth about $800 million, and is still pulling in revenue from one of the most lucrative movie franchises ever. The Austrian-American has been the Republican Governor of California since 2003. Also, sorry about the Governator joke earlier.
4. Tom Golisano
Golisano founded Paychex, the second-largest payroll processor in the nation. He started the company in 1971 hoping to provide a way for small businesses to cheaply outsource their payroll and human resource needs. The company also regularly appears on Fortune’s list of best companies to work for. Golisano has used his fortune to purchase part of the Buffalo Sabres and, more importantly, the Independence Party of New York. He ran for Governor of the state under this party in 1994, 1998, and 2002, losing by a smaller margin each time. He is worth about $1.3 billion.
3. Ronald Lauder
Ronald Lauder is the son of EstÃ©e and Joseph Lauder, the founders of the EstÃ©e Lauder companies. He worked for the company for about 20 years before entering public service. He worked for The Pentagon and as the US Ambassador to Austria before running for the Republican nomination for Mayor of New York City in 1989, eventually losing to Rudy Giuliani. He is worth an estimated $3 billion.
2. H. Ross Perot
The Texas businessman and founder of the Reform Party occupies the penultimate spot on our list. He made his fortune through the company he founded, Electronic Data Systems. He used a large chunk of this money on his 1992 Presidential campaign, ultimately winning almost 20% of the popular vote, but no electoral college votes. He did less well in the 1996 election. His current assets have a net worth of about $3.5 billion.
1. Michael Bloomberg
The sitting Mayor of New York City is the 8th richest person in the US, and the richest politician. He was a partner of investment bank Salomon Brothers before becoming dominant owner of the financial software, news and data company Bloomberg L.P., which he co-founded in 1981. The assets of the former Republican and current Independent total an eye-popping $18 billion.