Top 5 Political Heirs

These politicians had great wealth bestowed to them at birth or married rich. They compounded their riches and rose to the top of the U.S. political arena. They are now guiding our country's policies. From Jay Rockefeller to Rodney Frelinghuysen, these magnates require fewer campaign contributions than their less well-heeled opponents, but they still have to work to maintain their positions of power.

PHOTO: Republican Jon Huntsman speaks during a press conference to announce his bid for the presidency at Liberty State Park in this June 21, 2011 file photo in Jersey City, New Jersey.
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Jon Huntsman

Jon Huntsman, U.S. former ambassador to China and current GOP presidential contender, is worth between $16 million and $71 million, according to an August 2011 disclosure. His father is a billionaire and the founder of the Huntsman Corp., a global chemical company with over 12,000 employees.

It was not always clear Jon Huntsman would pursue a career in politics. He dropped out of high school to pursue his rock and roll dreams as a keyboard player. He later obtained a G.E.D and registered for the University of Utah, served as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan for two years and finally pursued a degree in international politics at the University of Pennsylvania.

PHOTO: Senator Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from West Virginia, chairs a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on auto dealership closings, Washington, D.C., June 3, 2009.
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Jay Rockefeller

Jay Rockefeller is no common man. Although he is currently a senator for West Virginia, the fourth-poorest state in the union, with a poverty rate of 15.7 percent, he inherited a portion of his family's historic fortune. Rockefeller's net worth is estimated to be between $86 million and $141 million. His wife, Sharon Percy is the CEO of WETA-TV, a leading PBS station.

Rockefeller told executives at Chevron and Exxon last May that they were "out of touch." He claims the oil industry is not serious about reducing the budget deficit. "I think you're out of touch, deeply profoundly out of touch and deeply and profoundly committed to sharing nothing," Rockefeller said. "You never lose. You've never lost. You always prevail." He thinks it is an outrage that our country's five largest and most profitable oil companies – BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell continue to accept taxpayer subsidies while gas prices continue to rise.

PHOTO: Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, speaks during a news conference on the repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board stipulated in the Affordable Care Act, Jan. 26, 2011.
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Rodney Frelinghuysen

The Frelinghuysen family has been in political office for many years. Rodney Frelinghuysen is the son of Peter Hood Ballantine Frelinghuysen II, great-great-grandson of Frederick T. Frelinghuysen, and great-great-great-nephew of Theodore Frelinghuysen. These men all represented New Jersey in Congress. Rodney's net worth is between $20 million and $65 million.

Like many of his Republican counterparts, the New Jersey congressman is vehemently opposed to tax increases on millionaires to fund Obama's jobs proposal. Frelinghuysen wrote, "To offset the 'temporary' spending, the proposal would contain a permanent tax increase on Americans earning $1 million annually. Here's the problem: the so-called 'millionaire surtax' is a permanent tax to pay for a temporary benefit." He believes that such taxes will hurt small business owners who are critical to business development in coarse economic times.

PHOTO: Chairman Ed Markey, D-Mass., and ranking member Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., begin a hearing before a Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming entitled "Fraudulent Letters Opposing Clean Energy Legislation," Oct. 29, 2009.
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Jim Sensenbrenner

U.S. Rep. Frank James Sensenbrenner, Jr. was born in Chicago, an heir to the Kimberly-Clark family fortune. The Republican congressman has spent more than 40 years in elected office. Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, Sensenbrenner introduced the PATRIOT Act, which expanded the federal government's ability to oversee activities in the U.S. to prevent future terrorist attacks.

Sensenbrenner has advocated repealing President Obama's health care legislation, arguing that it unnecessarily increases the size of government.

In addition to Sensenbrenner's inherited wealth, the congressman has won the lottery three times, most recently in 2007. His luck has netted him over $250,000 in prizes.

PHOTO: Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, listens to speakers during the Congressional Pediatric Cancer Caucus panel discussion on pediatric cancer in the Rayburnb House Office Building at the Capitol, Sept. 16, 2010.
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Michael McCaul

The Texas conservative is not an heir in his own right, but Congressman Michael McCaul's wife – Linda McCaul, nee Mays – is daughter of Clear Channel Communications Chairman Emeritus and founder L. Lowry Mays. Her brother, Mark Mays, is chairman of the company. Roll Call reported in August that money from the Mays in-laws given to Michael and Linda increased their net wealth to almost $300 million. That puts him at number two for wealthiest members of Congress, just below Darrell Issa, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

As a member of the House's Homeland Security Committee, McCaul has focused on the war in Afghanistan and Texas border security as his top priorities. This fall, McCaul came back from a U.S. delegation in Pakistan saying that relations with that nation are strained but that we should continue to strengthen those ties. McCaul announced in October that he will run for reelection to the House rather than go after retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson's seat.

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