Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Saturday attempted to play down the significance of his millionaire status, quipping dryly that he didn’t imagine lucrative book sales would hurt his chances to win the White House.
Did Bernie Sanders really get rich by writing a book? Does anyone get rich by writing books?
I suspect that Bernie Sanders got rich from being a politician. And lots of politicians do get to be very rich. California sends 20 millionaires to Congress. The names I recognise include Democrat Dianne Feinstein ($58.5 million minimum net worth), Democrat Nancy Pelosi ($16.0 million minimum net worth). And not just California. There’s also Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren (estimated net worth of $7,820,514 )
And of course there’s Democrat Bill and Hillary Clinton:
Since Bill and Hillary Clinton left the White House in 2001, they have turned political fame into a personal fortune, raking in more than $240 million, according to a FORBES analysis of 15 years of their tax returns.
Bill made most of the money, earning $189 million by writing books, giving speeches, consulting private companies and advising billionaire Ron Burkle. Days after his presidency ended, he earned $125,000 for a speech at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. in New York, according to a financial disclosure form Hillary filed as a senator in 2002. It was the first of hundreds of paid speeches that collectively made him an estimated $106 million over 15 years.
In 2004 he published his bestselling memoir My Life, one of the former president’s four titles. Clinton earned an estimated $38 million as an author from 2001 to 2015.
So Bill Clinton got rich the same way as Bernie Sanders, by writing books? Really?
And then there’s one-time Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry (estimated net worth of $103,001,362 in 2013). And one-time Democrat vice-president Al Gore (net worth $300 million) And then of course there’s Michael Bloomberg ($47.6 billion).
Donald Trump seems to be about the only loser:
Try as he might, the billionaire president isn’t profiting off his time in the White House, according to a new report.
President Donald Trump’s net worth has declined by more than $1 billion since the year he launched his presidential campaign at the foot of Trump Tower’s escalator, Forbes reported Tuesday.
The president’s net worth stands at $3.1 billion, down from $4.5 billion in 2015, Forbes said. As a result, Trump has tumbled down the Forbes 400 list, the latest edition of which will be published in full Wednesday. Trump was the 248th wealthiest person in America on Forbes’ 2017 list.
How about British politicans? Labour ex-PM Tony Blair is one of the richest Labour politicans (£60 million). And his sidekick Peter Mandelson (£6 million). And he’s not quite as rich as Conservative ex-PM David Cameron (£50 million) Who wasn’t as rich as Conservative Michael Heseltine (£264 million). Current PM Theresa May isn’t short of a bob or two either (net worth £2 million). And George Osborne must also be a millionaire:
Former Chancellor George Osborne was the highest earning MP of 2016, raking in £628,000 on top of his MP’s salary of £74,962 – chiefly from lucrative public speaking engagements – latest figures have revealed…
Another former Tory Chancellor, Ken Clarke, is the second highest earner, making an additional £599,160 on top of his salary, much of it from public speaking and advance payments for a book.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is the fifth highest earner, topping up his parliamentary salary with an additional £356,459 – including £250,000 for his column in The Telegraph – which he gave up after being appointed to his new role.
Mr Johnson was also in receipt of a monthly income of £3,982.50 as Mayor of London until Sadiq Khan took over this May.
The figures reveal 13 of the top 14 earning MPs are Conservatives, with former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg the only non-Tory in the top ten earners. He earned an additional £193,040 – including more than £36,000 for one speech he gave to Barclays Bank during the EU Referendum campaign.
So how do they all get so rich? Do they all write best-selling books? Are they all famous authors?
I think there’s a simpler explanation, and it’s that if you work in government and know that something is going to happen somewhere (a new road gets built, or a new airport, or a new factory), when most other people don’t know, you’re in a position to benefit from that knowledge. And people who know you are also likely to benefit too. And the higher your office, the more you’ll know. You’ll know things that nobody else knows.
And how do people pay you for keeping them well-informed? Why, they pay you to make speeches to them a few years later:
$153 million in Bill and Hillary Clinton speaking fees, documented
Or else you write a book (or, more likely, get someone else to write a book for you), and the book becomes a best-seller of course.
It’s probably not that you get rich in politics through bribery and corruption (although there’s always that as well). It’s probably that you simply know stuff that other people don’t know, and very much want to know, and are prepared to pay to find out about.
So when you see all those Peers in the House of Lords, and MPs in the House of Commons, and Representatives in Congress, you can be pretty sure that a lot of them will be millionaires in a few years time, if they aren’t already.
And the richer they get, the more powerful they become. And so when the world’s 14th richest man, Michael Bloomberg, became mayor of New York City, he probably just used some of that money to personally push through a city-wide smoking ban.