Democrats, from President Obama on down, might want to look up some inconvenient truths before they keep criticizing Mitt Romney for being a Massachusetts millionaire.
In 2004, when Massachusetts Senator John Kerry ran as the Democratic presidential nominee, Kerry’s financial disclosure forms revealed his assets as between $165 and $626 million—almost certainly dwarfing Romney’s financially disclosed net worth of between $190 and $250 million.
Of course, Romney made his money the old-fashioned way. He earned it with his own brains and skills, working his way up in the management consulting and private equity businesses.
Kerry, on the other hand, married his wealth.
His wife, Teresa, became a trust fund heiress to the Heinz food fortune following the death of her husband, Senator H. John Heinz III, Republican of Pennsylvania, who was killed in a plane crash in 1991. Teresa, incidentally, remained a registered Republican until Kerry made his bid for the White House.
Another Massachusetts millionaire was the Democratic presidential nominee in 1988. Although he liked to tout his frugality, the financial disclosure forms of Governor Michael Dukakis revealed, according to the Associated Press, that he “has a net worth of at least $500,000 in property, investments and salary and is the potential beneficiary of about $1 million controlled by trusts.”
Although he eventually lost his presidential bid to Jimmy Carter, in 1980, another Massachusetts Democratic millionaire ran—make that multimillionaire and trust fund recipient. He was Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy. Kennedy had inherited $75 million from his father, according to Slate.
Perhaps the most iconic Massachusetts Democratic multimillionaire to run (and win) as the presidential nominee in 1960 was Senator John F. (“Jack”) Kennedy. Like his younger brother, Ted, John’s inherited financial resources were vast.
In the run-up to the election, JFK left one audience laughing (and wondering) when he pulled from his pocket what he said was a telegram from his “generous daddy” and read it aloud. “Jack, don’t spend one dime more than necessary. I’ll be damned if I am going to pay for a landslide.” Indeed, amid hotly debated charges of voter fraud (particularly in Texas and Illinois), Kennedy beat Republican Richard Nixon by one tenth of one percentage point—the narrowest popular vote margin of the 20th century.
There is nothing wrong with wealth—including inherited wealth. As the 2012 election proceeds, Democrats (especially President Obama) might want to remember that—and their own party’s history of wealthy candidates from Massachusetts.
Communications consultant Jon Kraushar is at www.jonkraushar.net.