The Richest Presidential Candidates
NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Mitt Romney released his 2010 tax returns, and much of the media focus rightly has been on his low tax rate -- due to a combination of charitable tithing and the peculiar way the tax code treats his income from Bain Capital, Romney pays an effective rate of just 13.9%.
But the candid look at the candidate's finances has served to remind voters just how filthy, stinking rich the guy is. But like politicians sometimes have short memories ("I do not recall receiving that memo, no"), so too do voters; Romney is far from the richest candidate to run for president in recent decades.
Romney, who made his fortune in management consulting and private equity, boasts a net worth of about $250 million, placing him among the top five richest Americans to run for president in the past 20 years. And while that pile of cash has certainly made it easier for him to run his two presidential campaigns (he failed to win the nomination back in 2008), it also threatens to make it more difficult for him to connect with the average voter. That vulnerability was highlighted in December when Romney offered a $10,000 bet to then-candidate Rick Perry -- a sum many Americans could only dream about wagering (in fact, it's equal to a fifth of the median U.S. household income).
So how have similarly wealthy American fared in politics? To put things in context, Wealth-X, a consultancy that specializes in research on ultra-high net worth individuals, compiled a ranking of the richest Americans to run for president in the past 20 years. As you'll see, being filthy rich isn't a roadblock to winning the nomination, but it doesn't seem to help you seal the deal in the general election.Fifth-Richest: Al Gore ($100 million) Al Gore and Romney have more in common than you might expect: Both are Harvard men, both are sons of prominent politicians and both have struggled with the perception that they are stiff and unable to connect with the average voter. But whereas Romney had made his fortune by the time he went into politics, it wasn't until Gore left office that he really started raking in the big bucks. (Wealth-X's list is based on current net worth, though Gore is the only member of the top five who made most of his wealth post-politics.) In addition to the hefty speaking fees accorded to most prominent former politicians, Gore also has a number of lucrative business interests. He has sat on the boards of Google and Apple, which earned him some sought-after stock options that made him tens of millions of dollars. He's also the founder of media company Current TV, and has put his money where his mouth is via stakes in investment firms that finance alternative energy companies. Gore, of course, won the Democratic nod in 2000 but lost to George W. Bush, who may have had more money in the bank but still managed to cultivate a more populist image than Gore.
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