Personal wealth in the Senate Judiciary Committee
The Senate Judiciary Committee is one of the most influential bodies in government, responsible for Department of Justice oversight, civil liberties legislation and the vetting of Supreme Court nominees.
Recently, the hearings preceding Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court catapulted the committee into the media limelight, its members’ faces splashed across every cable news outlet for a full week. Some members of the committee are more well known than others (at least a few could be our next president) but all wield significant power in the Senate.
Some also have significant personal wealth. See below for the raw data showing the estimated net worths for members of the committee as of 2016 according to disclosures made available by the Senate’s Select Committee on Ethics.
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Feinstein is not the only member of the committee with a wealthy spouse. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is married to a woman who started work as a private wealth manager for Goldman Sachs in 2005. Heidi Cruz became a managing director for Goldman Sachs in 2013, just one step below partner. Loans from Goldman Sachs reportedly made up around half-a-million of early Cruz presidential campaign funding. The senator himself also made over $2 million working at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, a law firm, in the early 2010s. His estimated net worth for 2016 was around $3.2 million.
Aside from being the first woman to serve as top-Democrat on the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is probably the wealthiest member, with an estimated net worth of over $100 million. The foundations of Feinstein’s fortune come from Blum Capital, a corporate investment firm founded by her husband in 1975, according to Investopedia. Three years after the founding of Blum Capital, Feinstein became mayor of San Francisco when Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, America’s first openly gay politician, were murdered.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s (D-Conn.) wife is the daughter of Peter Malkin, a successful real estate investor who once faced off against Donald Trump over ownership of the Empire State Building. Trump accused Malkin of mismanaging the building and allowing it to become infested with pests in hopes of breaking the lease so he could acquire the property himself. Blumenthal and his wife have at least $600,000 invested in gold. Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) made at least $100,000 from stock in a company founded by his stepfather in 2014 according to the Delaware State News. Coons’ fortune is currently estimated at $8.8 million while Blumenthal’s is at nearly ten times that.
According to Yahoo! Finance, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) is the wealthiest politician in her home state, despite being born economically underprivileged. Hirono spent her very early life on a rice farm in Japan after being born to an alcoholic father and grew up partially in a Hawaii boarding house after her mother took her to the United States. Her net worth was estimated at around $2.4 million in 2016.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) racked up more than $700,000 in royalties from his book “United” which came out in 2016 when Booker’s net worth was estimated to be about $1 million. Booker previously owned stock in a website called Waywire but donated his shares to charity in 2013. The tech startup currently appears to be defunct.
The “poorest” members of the committee are Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) ($257,000) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) ($432,003). Leahy, 78, has been in the Senate since he became the youngest senator ever elected from Vermont at 34, which might help to explain why he is cash-poor. (The current salary for a senator is a meager $174,000.) Flake was once one of the poorest members of the Senate overall, but he is not running for re-election, so he could divert his attention to bolstering his bank account in the near future.
Other Republicans have deeper pockets. Head of the committee Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has made a living as a corn and soybean farmer. Like other corn producers, Grassley will benefit from a change in Trump policy that lifts the limit on ethanol content in gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent. Grassley also accepted a portion of the subsidies the Trump administration poured into agriculture to counteract the less desirable effects of Trump-imposed tariffs. Grassley’s website touts his experience as a farmer and boasts that he is the “first non-lawyer to lead this big-league committee.” Grassley’s wealth is estimated at more than $3.4 million in 2016.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) the committee’s former chairman, raised some eyebrows when it was revealed he had purchased at least $15,000 in Phillip Morris stock while on the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in 2012. Hatch is retiring, but he is currently the longest-serving Republican in Senate. His net worth was estimated at around $4.4 million in 2016.
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