Politics and business often go hand-in-hand, and it’s not unusual for politicians to be influenced by wealthy business people. Alternatively, some wealthy businesspeople enter politics to shape public policy to their vision. Both scenarios can have good and bad consequences for society and countries.
Wealth And Politics, Hand In Hand
Wealthy politicians come from all walks of life and social status. Those listed among the wealthiest often inherited their wealth, but sometimes brains and hard work pay off handsomely. Keep reading to discover the source of wealth for some of the world’s most famous politicians. You’ll discover just how wealthy the Clintons really are, and how a famous female politician made her millions.
Estimated net worth of $6.3 billion.
The words flashy, unconventional, and controversial describe this former Italian prime minister. Before he got into politics, Berlusconi started out as a crooner on a cruise ship. From these humble beginnings, he became a highly successful real estate investor. Berlusconi used his considerable real estate wealth to invest in broadcast TV channels, becoming a media mogul in the process.
Berlusconi admits that he got into politics mainly to avoid going to prison. He served three terms as prime minister from 1994 to 2011. Married for many years, he unabashedly had public flings with other women while attempting to change the constitution to his liking. Berlusconi was convicted of bribery and tax fraud.
Estimated net worth of $37.2 billion.
The name Michael Bloomberg is very familiar to those who vigilantly follow financial news. Bloomberg News provides current economic and financial news to scores of followers. Bloomberg’s media empire also includes Bloomberg Terminal, Bloomberg Tradebook, and several stations under the Bloomberg Radio umbrella.
This son of a bookkeeper earned his Eagle Scout badge as a boy and went on to earn degrees in electrical engineering and business. He ran for mayor of New York City on a platform of education reform and won in 2001. Taking on the issue of poverty, he was re-elected in 2005. He won re-election for a third term in 2009 as an Independent candidate.
Estimated net worth of $13.2 billion.
Savitri Jindal is not only one of the richest people in India, she’s also listed as one of the world’s richest individuals. This mother of nine is not your typical businessperson. She loves to talk about her large family and enjoys carrying on the public work of her deceased husband, O.P. Jindal.
Her husband founded the Jindal Group, a power and steel company in India. Before losing his life in a tragic helicopter crash, O.P. Jindal was a member of the Hisar Legislative Assembly. Upon his death, Savitri was elected to represent his constituency. Her impressive business skills tripled the Jindal Group’s earnings.
Estimated net worth of $3.7 billion.
In November 2016, Donald Trump shocked the world by winning the U.S. presidential election. While losing the popular vote by millions, he was able to secure victory thanks to the Electoral College. His election is another offbeat twist in the life of this real estate mogul/reality TV personality/politician.
Trump claims he ran for president to “Make America Great Again,” a slogan borrowed from Ronald Reagan. Many speculate that his true motives are more centered on growing his financial empire. Because Trump refused to make his tax returns public before the election, Forbes used information at its disposal to come up with a credible net worth estimate.
Estimated net worth of $525 million.
A hero of the American Revolution, George Washington was born into a middle-class family of tobacco plantation owners. At a young age, he inherited plantation property from his father, later naming it Mount Vernon. During his stint as a surveyor, Washington purchased additional land in Western Virginia.
After gaining experience as a soldier and resourceful leader, Washington married wealthy widow Martha Custis. His union with Martha boosted his financial wealth, social and political status greatly. As head of the family, George managed his wife’s inherited property for her and his step-children and was given partial ownership. President Washington was paid handsomely for his administrative duties, earning two percent of the new country’s budget.
Estimated net worth of $18.4 billion.
Vladimir Putin came about his wealth by using his political power to take control of his country’s valuable assets. The crafty former KGB official first entered politics in 1990, as an adviser to the Mayor of Saint Petersburg. In another position, he was responsible for foreign asset transfers to the Russian government.
Political positions working for Premier Yeltsin earned him enough name recognition and power to win Russia’s Presidency, three times. Putin has placed former KGB members in control of key government agencies. With immense control over the country’s military, economy, and rich oil reserves, Putin has become extremely wealthy during his years as Russian President and Premier.
John F. Kennedy
Estimated net worth of $1 billion.
John F. Kennedy was already rich before being elected as the 35th person to lead the United States. Most of his wealth came from business deals and investments made by his father, Joe. During his lifetime, JFK was worth millions, and he stood to inherit a huge fortune from his father, but his untimely assassination in 1963 ended that prospect.
Much of the Kennedy wealth stems from valuable real estate holdings. A family trust set up in 1945 manages the family’s financial holdings, and JFK received his share of this money. Joe Kennedy was also into stock trading, making movies, and he may have sold bootleg liquor during prohibition.
Estimated net worth of $15.1 billion.
Serge Dassault is a French Senator and successful entrepreneur. He’s also the CEO and chairman of Dassault Group, a company he inherited from his late father. Dassault Aviation produces sleek jets and aviation equipment. Dassault expanded the aviation company into software, growing his and the company’s fortunes along the way.
He entered French politics as part of the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement party. His first political gig was Mayor of Corbeil-Essonnes. A scandal erupted, and he was sentenced to a couple years of probation. The outspoken conservative won a senatorial seat in 2004. In 2016, Dassault was put on trial for tax evasion.
Estimated net worth of $55 million.
There’s been a lot of speculation as to the source of Bill Clinton’s wealth. He and his wife Hillary have often been accused of using their Clinton Foundation to boost their personal fortunes. Political watchers and journalists digging into the matter haven’t found any credible evidence of financial monkey business.
As Arkansas Governor, Clinton earned a maximum salary of $35,000 a year. The Clintons dabbled in real estate, but never got wealthy from that. A large portion of Clinton’s financial worth was eaten up by lawyers during his presidency. However, being president does come with financial benefits, and Bill Clinton hit the speaking circuit, earning millions for doing something he loves: talking.
Lyndon Baines Johnson
Estimated net worth of $98 million.
Texas has a reputation for producing lots of oil and big personalities. Lyndon Baines Johnson, better known as LBJ, certainly had the latter. Descended from pioneers, LBJ was born into a moderately successful family, but his daddy lost the family fortune, and Johnson worked his way through college. Perhaps watching his father lose it all spurred Johnson to make wise choices with his own money.
Johnson became a high school teacher, and in 1930 won a seat in Congress. He acquired ranch property and mixed ranching duties with his political responsibilities. Johnson expanded his land ownership to 1,000 acres, raising and selling livestock. He also owned media stations and other assets.
Estimated net worth of $19.2 billion.
Sonia Gandhi is the widow of former India Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1991. After his death, she turned down the offer to serve as the leader in his place. One can hardly blame her after the assassinations of her husband and mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi.
Eventually, she agreed to get into politics and became the elected leader of the Congress party. Popular with the people she represents, she served longer than any other president in that political body’s history. Gandhi is of Italian heritage, and her close ties to Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi are controversial. Quattrocchi is implicated in a bribery scandal. However, she remains unscathed politically and wields tremendous influence.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Estimated net worth of $60 million.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt never knew what it was like not to be wealthy. His rich family mingled in social circles with other elite families such as the Astons and Rockefellers. Despite his privileged upbringing, FDR never used his considerable wealth to benefit himself over the American people.
Like his father before him, FDR married a woman who had more personal wealth than he did. Eleanor Roosevelt inherited a substantial trust fund thanks to her alcoholic father’s good financial planning. The two fortunes combined gave him access to society’s top dealmakers and politicians. Suffering from polio, he empathized with those less fortunate, and his New Deal saved millions from starving.
Estimated net worth of $299-768 million.
As of 2016, Darrell Issa’s wealth puts him in the top spot of wealthiest U.S. congresspeople. He didn’t inherit wealth like some other rich politicians. His money comes from investing in a variety of business and real estate deals.
The moment Darrell Issa turned 17, he dropped out of high school to enlist in the U.S. Army. The army trained him to defuse and dispose of bombs, but he was booted to a supply depot after bombing out in his unit. After military service, Issa invested in a friend’s new electronics company which prospered. In 2000, he was elected to Congress, representing his California district.
Estimated net worth of $100-200 million.
Since landing in the United States as a beefy bodybuilder, Arnold Schwarzenegger has had quite a career. He started out as a bodybuilding champion, winning both the Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe titles. Hollywood came calling, and soon he was fighting bad guys as the mighty Conan the Barbarian. That movie hit led to other memorable roles in films.
Afer starring in the smash hit The Terminator, Arnold’s movie career and earnings potential skyrocketed into the stratosphere. A Hollywood Republican in a sea of Democrats, the people of California elected him to be their Governor during a recall election. His political career lasted for one term, and now he’s back to being Arnold the entertainment star.
Estimated net worth of $1 billion.
As a member of one of America’s most famous rich families, it’s not a stretch to state that Nelson Rockefeller was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His father was the powerful financial baron, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Young Nelson learned early about business and philanthropy.
Nelson worked at the family-owned Chase National Bank, was chairman of an oil company, and became an influential art patron in Manhattan. His political career started as a Westchester County Board of Health member. Rockefeller served in appointed roles under three U.S. presidents before being elected as Governor of New York. Gerald Ford tapped him to be his Vice President.
Estimated net worth of $2.5 billion.
Sebastian Pinera is a financial and media mogul. He also served as the President of Chile from 2010 to 2014. Most of his wealth comes from his savvy investments in the credit card industry. He helped introduce credit cards into the Chile economy, using his Harvard Ph.D. in economics to great benefit.
In 1982, he was a bank manager accused of corruption but was acquitted of those charges. He acquired enough money to purchase a broadcasting channel and is a partial owner of a Chilean football team. In the late 1990s, Pinera was elected as Senator of East Santiago. In 2004, he ran for the presidency and lost, but his persistence eventually paid off.
Estimated net worth of $1.6 billion.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton is a natural politician. Before being elected governor in 2011, he was a U.S. Senator representing Minnesota from 2001 to 2007. His wealth is the result of being the great-grandson of Dayton’s department store founder, George Dayton. The Dayton-Hudson Corporation later morphed into Target Corporation. Fans of Target stores can thank Gov. Dayton’s great-grandaddy for starting it all.
As a young man, Dayton was interested in teaching and social work. A budding activist, he was maced by police during a Vietnam War protest. Politics soon won his heart, and he’s been involved in shaping public policy ever since.
Estimated net worth of $75 million.
Herbert Hoover will always be associated with the 1929 Wall Street crash that sent the United States hurtling into a massive economic depression. Before this financial disaster, he was actually well respected as a businessman and political leader.
Although he was raised by a wealthy uncle after being orphaned as a child, Hoover didn’t inherit any money. His wealth came from his 20-year involvement in the mining industry. Wealthier than FDR at the time, Hoover never took a salary while serving as president. Hoover promised the country economic efficiency and continued prosperity, but that plan went awry spectacularly. His political fortunes tanked along with other Republicans’.
Estimated net worth of $2 billion.
The decision to join Pilot Corporation after college was an easy one for Bill Haslam. After all, his father, Jim, founded the company, and his brother, Jimmy, was already on track to become company CEO. Haslam left the family business to become head of Sak’s Fifth Avenue’s lucrative e-commerce and catalog division.
He honed his political chops as the Knoxville, Tennessee mayor for two terms. Not wasting any time, he ran for governor and won by a 65 percent margin of victory. The Republican signed bills to bar sex education and to crack down on new mothers using drugs during pregnancy. He refused to make the Bible the state’s official book.
Estimated net worth of $1.59 billion.
Jim Justice comes from a family steeped in the agricultural business. This son of West Virginia earned his Masters in Business Administration and used his education to help out the family business. He controls thousands of acres of prime West Virginia farmland as the owner of Bluestone Farms and Stoney Brook Plantation.
In the early 1990s, Justice inherited Bluestone Coal Corp. from his father and became the company’s president. Over time, he expanded his business investments into other areas such as the resort industry. Justice entered politics in 2015 as a candidate for West Virginia governor. Switching from Republican to Democrat, the political novice was elected as governor in 2016.
Estimated net worth of $8.8 billion.
The Russian billionaire is a man of many titles: banker, investor, politician, athlete, playboy… He ran against Vladimir Putin for Russia’s 2012 presidential race and drew some bad blood with the now-president. A newspaper that he owns, under RBC Media, published leaks of Putin’s associates and their relations to tax evasion and moving funds offshore.
Prokhorov and the media under his command are known for their criticism of the Russian government, and in the year 2000, soon after the leak, Russian law enforcement wearing ski masks searched Prokhorov’s offices. More searches took place on Prokhorov’s investments, and a Putin critic employed in Prokhorov’s oil firm YUKOS was detained. The lesson: It isn’t easy being a critic of the government in Russia, even if you’re a billionaire.