Would You Use Your Own Wealth to Influence Politics?

CNBC program, The Closing Bell, had a story once on rich members of Congress getting richer in 2009. The story indicated that more than half of the members of Congress (261) are millionaires.

The Roll Call (a Washington DC newspaper) reported this September on a survey of the 50 richest members of congress – a survey they do each year. The statistics reported in that article (The 50 Richest Members of Congress) are based on the required annual disclosure that members of congress must do.

The Roll Call’s web site story reported that “Under federal law, Members must disclose their personal investments and liabilities, but only in broad categories, shielding the exact value of any asset or debt. “

John Kerry (D Mass) and Darral Issa (R Calif) were the top wealth holders listed in the September 2010 report.

Last month, I finished reading the book, A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich, Richistanis want to conquer the power of politics like they have conquered the business world. To help with that effort, the number of millionaires funding their own campaigns has risen from about 3 a year in the 1980s to more than 24 in 2004 (these were folks supplying more than $1 million of their own money to the campaign.

Meg Whitman (R Calif) in 2010 was the latest and most extreme example of self-financing – putting up $15 million of her own money.

Frank notes examples of Michael Bloomberg (financial information magnate) who spent 74 million to get elected as NY mayor and another 77 million to get re-elected; Maria Cantwell who spent $10 million to get a Washington state senate seat and Herb Kohl spent $5 million to keep his Wisconsin senate seat.

However, according to an ABC News article “Meg Whitman Smashes Record for Self-Financed Campaign in California” by Lee Kamlet published Sept. 16, 2010, incumbent self-financed candidates are not advantaged by being able to spend lots of their own money on a campaign. They say that “In fact, since 2002, the four candidates who spent the most of their own money for Congressional campaigns were all defeated. “

This trend is not just at the Federal level, the ABC News article also reports “The same trend holds true for candidates for statewide office. According to a study by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, only 11 per cent of self-financed candidates won their races in the last nine years. “

These facts raised a question which Maria Bartirimo posed on CNBCs Closing Bell show: Can these rich folks really represent us, since most of the country is struggling financially? Her co-anchor answered that, sure they could. After all these wealthy people are successful people and don’t you want successful, smart people representing you in Congress?

These facts raised several questions in my mind: Should candidates be able to finance as much as they want when running for office? Will that eventually result in only the rich being in office? Why would anyone want to spend $15 million dollars of their personal fortune to run for office?

What do you think? Would you spend your hard earned money to run for political office? What values and legacy would this demonstrate to your progeny?

In our article “What Does Family Legacy Mean to You?” we state that “family legacy means the accomplishments, beliefs, actions and guidance you demonstrate in your lives – that carry forward to future generations in a fashion which allow those family members to adopt and adapt them to make their lives meaningful and fruitful.”

Would using your wealth to gain power help your family establish and demonstrate your family legacy?


  • http://abcnews.go.com/US/Blotter/meg-whitman-breaks-record-financed-campaign-california-governors/story?id=11647905&page=2
  • http://www.rollcall.com/features/Guide-to-Congress_2010/guide/-49892-1.html
  • http://www.opensecrets.org/pfds/why.php
  • http://www.cnbc.com/id/15838421/