Millionaire Politicians


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.

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13 Responses to Millionaire Politicians

  1. Dirk says:

    Here are the 20 richest authors of FICTION (novels) of all time, as of 2019. We’ve used figures from Celebrity Net Worth, Forbes and The Richest to create this compilation. See

    • Frank Davis says:

      It doesn’t say whether it was just from selling books that they made their money. J K Rowling probably made a lot of money from her Harry Potter books, but she would also have made money from the Harry Potter movies. And there might also be other products, like Harry Potter T-shirts and Harry Potter mugs.

      Also, it doesn’t say whether they were wealthy or not before they wrote their books (although I’m pretty sure J K Rowling was not).

      I’m surprised that the world’s richest author is a philosopher. Who buys books on philosophy? I suspect that Elisabeth Badinter has other sources of income than just books (lectures, speeches, TV appearances, plus property, inherited money, etc ).

  2. smokingscot says:

    You’re bang on the money Frank. Within investment circles it’s called “insider knowledge”, meaning anything that gives the trader an advantage. It’s hugely useful when there will be a concerted attempt by central banks to support, or to devalue a currency.

    So anyone who knew sanctions would be imposed on Russians could get the hell out of their stock market and their currency.

    It’s one of the big advantages of attending Davos and Bilderberg and so on. Knowing what their long term plans are (in reality) lets traders position themselves for which firms are likely to benefit most.

    And yes politicians are an excellent source of information, what may seem a great deal for a speech, or an advance on some book is piffle to their sponsors. However they’re also very useful as influencers. Get the right one and s/he can make sure your stuff will be bought for the army or police, or hospital etc., etc.

    One thing I discussed many years ago was the advantage tobacco controller people had when it came to launching a legal case against a tobacco company. This was big a couple of decades ago. The Controllers would announce their intent to sue this or that tobacco company, resulting in a rout on their stock value.

    By shorting their shares (selling stuff you don’t have) you could in fact honour your sale contract by the close of business, or settlement period by buying shares at a far cheaper price.

    It’s my suspicion that the seed money for ASH came from doing exactly that.

    • Rose says:

      “ASH receives funding for its full programme of work from the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK. It has also received project funding from the Department of Health to support tobacco control.”

      But apparently it did hold shares in GSK in 2001 , this is now missing but luckily Dave Atherton had a copy and at that time the pdf still worked
      Edited highloights

      Re: Derek Bonham

      “I write to express my dismay that GlaxoSmithKline, as a major healthcare company, should have on its board a prominent tobacco industry figure. I believe this will have negative consequences for the company – especially in an environment where partnerships between private, public and voluntary sectors are increasingly common.”

      “ASH has worked closely with both Glaxo and SmithKline Beecham staff and always welcomed the active collaboration. I hope to continue this with the merged company. We have worked with GSK under the auspices of the WHO-Europe Partnership Project on tobacco dependence and at various one-off opportunities. ASH was instrumental in securing greater government commitment to smoking cessation products in the NHS National Plan and we have helped with PR for both Zyban and Niquitin CQ. Our involvement with GSK staff has, I believe, been mutually beneficial, and we have gained from exposure to the company’s arguments and insights. I have always admired the commitment and professionalism of the GSK staff involved.”

      “Most of the measures that drive people to want to quit smoking and use GSK products are exactly those that are opposed by tobacco companies. Such measures include:

      Restrictions on smoking in public places and workplaces

      Marketing restrictions on tobacco companies

      Higher tobacco taxation

      Greater NHS involvement in smoking cessation

      Regulatory measures to be applied to tobacco products

      There is the question of the credibility of a science and research based organisation like GSK appointing a person who leads a tobacco company, which has had such a notoriously poor nrecord with truth, facts and reality.”

      “Should this link between tobacco and pharmaceuticals become widely known in the general public, there is a grave risk to the public understanding of smoking cessation. There are already campaign groups that claim the tobacco industry and pharmaceutical industry have a symbiotic relationship that is parasitic on the smoker.”

      “ASH has a small shareholding in GSK and I will be attending with others to question you and the Chairman on this situation.”

      • smokingscot says:

        My apologies for not making it clear. I was pointing the finger at the founder of ASH, who I understand assisted in the compilation of FCTC.

        • Smoking Lamp says:

          As you point out, this is clear indication of conflict of interest (and ‘collusion’ to use a politically charged word) between ASH and the Pharma cartels. This a=has antitrust and corruption overtones even if you choose to ignore the deliberate persecution of smokers.

  3. EG says:

    Hi, this is not related to the post subject but I know you do earth models. This is very different earth model explained
    I have never heard of this idea.

  4. garyk30 says:

    In my opinion, what matters is not how much they make; but, what they do with the money to help society.

    Socialists want others to sacrifice much for the good of the less well off.

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) released a decade’s worth of tax returns on Monday, detailing millions in income—2.26 percent of which he donated to charity.

    The documents show that over the years, Sanders’ income ranged from $205,617 to $1.1 million, while his charitable giving ranged from less than 1 percent to just over 4 percent depending on the year.

    Last year, Sanders’ total income was $566, 421 and he donated $18,950 or 3.35 percent. In 2017, his income was $1.1 million and he gave away $36,300 or 3.15 percent. The year before that he also made more than $1 million but donated $10,600 or less than 1 percent.

  5. Charles Burns says:

    In America, people may enter national politics for idealistic reasons, but once in DC, quickly become wealthy and cease to represent non-contributing constituents. It is the perennial corruption problem here. Term limits is the answer, but it will take a Constitutional Amendment and no entity wants to pay to make it happen. Trump is the exceedingly rare exception. His thick skin enables him to take much abuse, yet we see how much a President’s wishes can be thwarted. It’s good or bad, depending on one’s own interests. Somehow we muddle through, rarely getting too extreme left it right.

  6. waltc says:

    Rowling was (famously) on welfare before Potter. And there’d have been no movies or spinoffs if the books that preceeded them hadn’t been raging best sellers. Worldwide. It’s also more than possible to become very bery rich from acting, singing, and playing baseball or football.

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