If Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry were elected to the White House in 2004, he would be America’s richest president in more than a century.
Kerry, a democratic presidential candidate, has listed assets worth between $165 and $626 million on his latest financial disclosure forms, and has publicly said that he has not ruled out using some of this wealth to run for president.
While President George W. Bush is thought to have a political advantage in campaign finance, Kerry has more than 20 times the reported personal capital of the incumbent president and leads all other likely candidates, according to a Center for Public Integrity study of recent financial disclosure forms.
Bush’s running mate, Vice President Dick Cheney, finished second in wealth among names that could end up on 2004 presidential tickets, amassing at least $22 million. Rounding out the list of presidential candidates with large personal resources are: Bush ($9.6 million), Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., ($8.7 million); Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., ($7.3 million); former Gov. Howard Dean, D-Vt., ($3.9 million); Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., ($376,000); and Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., ($134,000), with these figures being reported as the minimum ranges of their net worth.
In an attempt to shed light on how personal interests could affect the agenda of presidential candidates, the Center compiled data from the 2002 financial disclosure reports and created a searchable database. For the first time ever, the general public can search a candidate’s income, assets and other reported information available on federal public disclosure forms. The assets on each form were listed in ranges, which unfortunately precludes the deduction of precise figures for each candidate.
Other candidates can’t ketchup
Kerry married Teresa Heinz, the widow of Sen. John Heinz, a Pennsylvania Republican who died in a plane crash outside of Philadelphia in 1991 and who was heir to the Heinz ketchup fortune. The couple’s fortune has been estimated by some media sources to be worth as much as $675 million, making him the richest member of Congress (Kerry’s most recent financial disclosure form, which requires officials to value their assets within broad ranges, shows a top figure of $688 million).
Kerry has at least $2,500,000 million in CDs, money markets, and banking accounts, $3,700,000 listed in diversified investments, such as 401Ks, IRAs, and mutual funds, and at least $151,000,000 in stocks and bonds. But most of those assets are listed in his wife’s name. In fact, of the 950 assets listed on his disclosure form, all but three are owned by his spouse.
Kerry has publicly stated that most of the money is his wife’s and not his, but his spokesman has hinted that he might use his personal financial resources during his 2004 presidential campaign.
“He’s not ruled it out but he has said that he has never used his money to run for office before and it is not the way he would like to run for office,” said Kerry’s spokesman Bob Wade. “But if it is the only way to respond to a vicious attack, he may have to consider it.”
Kerry is not the only millionaire to vie for the White House tickets in 2004. Bush, Edwards and Graham are all worth at least seven figures, and Vice President Dick Cheney valued his assets somewhere between $22 million and $103 million. The former chairman and CEO of Halliburton Corp., the oil services firm, has money market accounts worth between $250,000 and $500,000; a Vanguard account valued between $1 and $5 million; and three other investment funds worth between $5 million and $25 million each.
His boss is worth somewhere between $9 million and $26 million. Bush has a $116,000 fund lingering from his partnership as a former owner of the Texas Rangers. He also has a diversified trust and a 1583-acre ranch in McLennan, Texas each valued at between $1 million and $5 million, and a money market account worth at least $225,000.
Edwards, the freshman senator from North Carolina, filed a disclosure showing assets worth between $8.7 million and $36.5 million. He opened a blind trust in 2001 and transferred assets to it worth between $5 and $25 million comprised of stocks, bonds and other investments. His other assets include a money market valued at between $250,000 and $500,000, a 401k worth more than $100,000 and a few North Carolina properties worth cumulatively more than $500,000. He also has a note receivable from “J. Edwards for Senate” Committee valued at more than $5 million, presumably from his 1998 election.
Graham, whose estimated worth stands between $7.3 million and $30.6 million, has $5.8 million in assets relating to the Graham Company, his family’s real estate and cattle business. He also owns stocks in 47 other companies worth between $738,000 and $2.1 million.
Dean of Vermont is from one of three states in the nation that do not require elected officials to file personal financial disclosure forms. But a recently obtained federal disclosure form obtained by the Center states he is worth almost $4 million. Among his largest assets are a Salomon, Smith Barney cash account worth more than $910,000, Treasury bonds worth $441,000 and small amount of stocks in companies like Intel, General Electric and Merck. Dean’s 2001 tax returns reveal that he and his wife Judith had a total income of $170,000 from his salary and her practice as a family physician.
Another candidate for the Democratic nomination is Rev. Al Sharpton. Sharpton is a private citizen, and under no obligation to disclose his assets. He received a $90,000 salary in 2001 from his position as president of the non-profit National Action Network, according to the group’s filings with the Internal Revenue Service.
The rich get richer
Not surprisingly, those with the most money also made the most money. Kerry and his wife made a minimum of $13.2 million in revenue — much of it from “unearned income” from their investments — more than seven times the total unearned income of eight other potential presidential candidates put together. That’s just the low end. They may have made more than $65 million alone in interest, stock dividends and other unearned income.
Cheney finished a distant second in unearned income with at least $1.2 million. Bush had at least $340,000, Edwards $274,000 and Graham had $273,000.
Cheney had an especially lucrative year. In addition to receiving his salary for duties as Vice President, he received a $1.4 million bonus from his former employer Halliburton in January 2001, the month of his inauguration. Halliburton also gave Cheney an elective deferred salary payout of $147,579 and a Senior Executive Deferred compensation of $57,719.
He wasn’t the only one to receive money from a previous job. Edwards received $1.2 million last year as part of a five-year buyout of his partnership in Edwards & Kirby, L.L.P., a law firm. Graham’s family ownership in the Graham Companies earned him between $100,000 and $1 million.
Executive-ship has its privileges
Being president has its advantages. Bush reported receiving gifts during his term including a four-inch silver-and-gold belt buckle with the presidential seal valued at $450. Bush was also given 10 neckties worth more than $1,400. Some celebrities were among the benefactors. Paul McCartney sent Bush an autographed hardcover edition of “The Beatles Anthology,” while two-time Masters champion golfer Ben Crenshaw gave him his very own golf cart valued at $7,101.
Cheney also received his share of gifts including a hand-painted boomerang from Denis Burke, the Australian Northern Territory Government’s Chief Minister, a bronze sculpture from Laurance Rockefeller and a sterling silver coffee serving set valued at $9,000 from Procter & Gamble Company, on whose board he served.