Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 10, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

MILLIONAIRES-IN-CHIEF....Money magazine emails to alert me that they've taken a close look at the leading presidential contenders (except Mike Huckabee, who apparently became a leading contender after press time) and have concluded that.....they sure do have a lot of money. If I'm right that they've considerably underestimated Fred Thompson's wealth, Barack Obama is the only one in the whole crowd with a net worth under $20 million.

I know this isn't really news or anything, but it's a slow day.

Kevin Drum 12:32 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (17)

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Is it any suprise? How much do you think Frederick of Hollywood is worth? It wasn't like he was a lead actor in The Hunt for Red October or Die Hard II.

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on December 10, 2007 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "I know this isn't really news or anything, but it's a slow day."

Well, Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize today in Oslo, and gave a brilliant and moving acceptance speech.

Meanwhile, at the climate policy negotiations in Bali, 200 scientists have issued a declaration calling on the participating nations to reduce GHG emissions to 50 percent of 1990 levels by the year 2050, while the Bush administration's negotiator says that said a proposal backed by Britain and the European Union for developed nations to reduce emissions by 25-40 percent by 2020 is "totally unrealistic" and "unhelpful" and that the US will not agree to any firm targets, either for emission reductions or maximum temperature rise.

The survival of human civilization and the future of life on Earth are at stake here.

Slow day indeed.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 10, 2007 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Lyndon Johnson was offered an easy deal by some oil-connected backers while he was an elected official (I think the House). He declined, saying "If I got rich while in office it would kill me (politically)."

God, I miss that.

(I'm sure many pols of both parties did the same. But that's the only one I know of, per Robert Caro's biography.)

I don't care about them being rich. I do care where they came from, how rich they grew up, and their paths to wealth.

And at some point the subject of how much these folk love money should be brought up. And I don't mean by Timmeh or Tweety.

Posted by: ThresherK on December 10, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Huckabee is probsbly the least rich candidate in a generation.

Posted by: Adam Herman on December 10, 2007 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

CNN's article, by Marlys Harris, Money Magazine senior editor, estimates Fred Thompson's wealth at $8.1 million, and "he has only $4 million in assets outside of his homes. About $825,000 is in retirement plans, the rest in bank accounts." But Kevin Drum says "If I'm right that they've considerably underestimated Fred Thompson's wealth, Barack Obama is the only one in the whole crowd with a net worth under $20 million." That means that Kevin thinks that Fred Thompson has at least $11.9 million in additional assets, or in other words his actual wealth is on the order of two and a half times the estimate of Money Magazine's senior editor. What is the basis for such speculation, and what sorts of assets does Kevin believe were omitted from Marlys Harris' accouting?

Posted by: Joel Rubinstein on December 10, 2007 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

In an age where every two-bit Pontiac or John Deere dealer in a podunk Indiana farm town has a seven figure net worth, why is it worth commenting on the wealth of people who have had successful careers to the point of being considered for the highest office in the land?

And ThresherK, you're joking, right? Nobody ever noticed LBJ and Lady Bird becoming wealthy in office, they were so refreshing!

Posted by: Sparky on December 10, 2007 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

I'd be surprised if Huckabee's personal wealth was more than $1 million. He's been in public service for over 10 years, and Arkansas pays its state officials very little. It's another thing to like about Huckabee, in addition to the fact that he's doing so well in the polls without raising much money. That said, I agree that he's nutso on pretty much everything else.

Posted by: Stan on December 10, 2007 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

It's heartening to note that, with the exception of Romney, they all made their money themselves or through their spouses. It adds some credibility to the "any kid can grow up to be President" ideal.

Posted by: Tom Veil on December 10, 2007 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Like the way Rudy made his money Tom? Preying on the fears of Americans and their companies after 9/11? Sounds like greedy type of carpetbagger that is not "heartening" at all.

Posted by: ReelBusy on December 10, 2007 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Well, that's just the thing. It's hard to find a "regular dude" who doesn't have some nutso views. We've elected regular joes before to political office, and the result is rarely good. Most people who are successful enough to make millions are used to the pressures of fame and have a sense of what views are really too out there to have, or at least speak in public.

Posted by: Adam Herman on December 10, 2007 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

It's heartening to note that, with the exception of Romney, they all made their money themselves or through their spouses. It adds some credibility to the "any kid can grow up to be President" ideal.

Just marry a rich heiress. It works for McCain.

Posted by: freelunch on December 10, 2007 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Joel Rubinstein:

"... and what sorts of assets does Kevin believe were omitted from Marlys Harris' accouting?"

There is no value given for future residual payments from his acting. I doubt these will amount to $11 million but I expect he will get something.

Posted by: James B. Shearer on December 11, 2007 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Ha, is Kevin following the WaPo lead of Obama's supposed Muslim ties with his misleading reference to Obama's wealth as being "...the only one in the whole crowd with a net worth under $20 million?" In light of Money mag reporting that the Obama family's net worth is $1.3 million, perhaps it would have been more accurate for Kevin to parse that "Obama only has 300K to spare as a millionaire-spouse-in-chief." Or describe how many millions separated Obama and the next on the list. You're misleading a lot of us who work in the public interest world and want to know how our fellow compatriot Obama amassed "...a net worth under $20 million...." on an organizer's, then a state lawmaker's, salary. Frankly, my guess is that Obama's net worth is closer to Huckabee's than any of the other solid multi-millionaires on the list.

Posted by: BEmama on December 11, 2007 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "Barack Obama is the only one in the whole crowd with a net worth under $20 million."

But then again, both he and his wife are pulling down handsome six-figure incomes, so he's not exactly panhandling for change on Michigan Avenue, is he?

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on December 11, 2007 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

He's not panhandling for change, but let's go with the facts: they have six, not seven, figure salaries. They have seven, not eight or nine, figure assets. And if you separate Obama's net worth from his wife, then his worth is below seven figures and in the "everyman" Huckabee camp. They broke a mil by 300K, she is no longer working, and they aren't falling back on the Clintons, Edwards, McCains, or Romneys' net worth while on the campaign trail. Kevin should've parsed Money mag's writing a little more than simply saying Obama is the only one with a net worth under 20 mil, when the diff between his net worth and Kevin's cut-off was actually 19.7 mil, putting Obama closer to Huckabee than to whomever is the second "poorest" millionaire on the list.

Posted by: BEmama on December 11, 2007 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

[IP Check reveals a banned troll. Content deleted. --Mod]

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