For too long, politics has been the playground of the legal class.
Indeed, there are more attorneys keeping seats warm in the three branches of the federal government than any other profession.
Recently, though, business leaders — who are responsible for society's most dynamic and important improvements — have started to crash the political party.
Two years ago, Americans elected George W. Bush, the first president with a master's in business administration. Last November, the biggest city in the country elected a self-made billionaire mayor, making Michael R. Bloomberg one of New York City's most impressive political arrivistes. B. Thomas Golisano, like Bloomberg a member of the Forbes 400, hopes to duplicate Hizzoner's success by capturing the New York state governorship on Nov. 5.
In celebrating the increasing success of capitalists in the political fold, we have ranked America's 10 richest politicians. To narrow the scope, we only considered people currently holding elective office and those running in this November's election.
1. Michael Bloomberg (Rep.), Mayor, New York City Net Worth: $4.8 Billion
Hizzoner spent about $73 million in 2001 to win the Big Apple's mayoralty, setting a record for the most expensive nonpresidential race in history. "Well, it's my money," Bloomberg opined. Following Rudolph Giuliani, one of NYC's most popular mayors, Bloomberg has mighty big shoes to fill — but no major missteps so far.
2. Winthrop Rockefeller (Rep.), Lieutenant Governor, Arkansas Net Worth: $1.2 Billion
With his common-man clothes and plainspokenness, "Win" may act the part of the average Joe, but he uses his prestigious lineage to maximum electoral benefit. The billionaire gave his reelection campaign for Arkansas lieutenant governor $350,000, more than four times the total amount his Democratic opponent was able to raise. He readily admitted in a recent debate, "[I] will say the name Rockefeller does tend to get the phone answered and the door opened." Win has expressed interest in one day serving as governor, thereby following in the footsteps of his father, whose liberal policies gave a whole new meaning to the term Rockefeller Republican.
3. B. Thomas Golisano (Ind.), Gubernatorial Candidate, New York Net Worth: $1.1 Billion
The Independent candidate failed in his bids to become governor in 1994 and 1998, but in politics as in love, hope springs eternal. Golisano spent about $20 million a pop in previous campaigns and may spend $75 million this time around. Still, he faces a popular incumbent in Republican George Pataki, making his candidacy a long shot.
4. John Kerry (Dem.), Senator, Massachusetts Net Worth: $550 Million
OK, so it's his wife's money — but there is a lot of it. The junior senator from Massachusetts is married to Teresa Heinz, whose first husband was the great-grandson of food magnate Howard Heinz. Teresa inherited her fortune after John Heinz, a Republican senator from Pennsylvania, died in plane crash in 1991. Kerry notes that Teresa's wealth is not his, and that he had been elected without her fortune. Still, it does scare away potential opponents. One Massachusetts politico declined to challenge the incumbent in the mid-1990s, saying, "I can think of 675 million good reasons not to run against John Kerry."
5. Tony Sanchez (Dem.), Gubernatorial Candidate, Texas Net Worth: $500 Million