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It's no secret running for elected office costs money. Money is the lifeblood of politics. Running for president of the United States being the most costly of political ventures, so it's no surprise the candidates are well-heeled financially. Just how well-heeled?

Forbes recently, in a piece penned by Dan Alexander, analyzed the net worth of every candidate, from Trump to the two-dozen Democrat candidates. The group's net worth, excluding Trump ($3.1 billion) and hedge fund mogul Tom Steyer ($1.6 billion) still averaged $12.9 million with a median net worth of $2 million.

Just looking at the top Democratic contenders reveals the enormous wealth the candidates of "the working class party" have amassed, much of it a direct result of being able to cash-in on public service.

• Topping the list of the leading contenders is Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., whose net worth Forbes pegged at $12 million. Warren and her husband, Bruce Mann, have amassed much of their wealth in TIAA and CREF retirement accounts, which are available to educators and employees of nonprofits. She and Mann, a tenured law professor, have about $4 million in the retirement funds. Forbes notes the couple also owns two homes, a "$3 million Victorian" in Cambridge, Mass., and an $800,000 condo in Washington, D.C.

Warren has received substantial book advances, including $3.2 million from Macmillan and $1.2 million in another book deal. No word or indication if she received any advances for her contribution to the "Pow Wow Chow" Native American cookbook.

• Then there's Joe Biden, whose net worth is pegged at $9 million by Forbes. Biden, who among his famous and still-growing list of "gaffes" includes once claiming to have been a coal miner, likes to posture himself as an everyman kind of politician. Forbes notes Joe and Jill Biden earned roughly $11.1 million in 2017, almost twice as much they earned from 1998 to 2016. The bulk of the Bidens' 2017 earnings came from book deals and speaking engagements.

Joe Biden is currently on leave from his University of Pennsylvania professorship gig, which paid him $775,000. Jill Biden earned $560,000 in speaking engagements, capitalizing on her tenure as Second Lady.

• Also living quite comfortably is self-declared socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., whose net worth is valued at $2.5 million by Forbes. Sanders, who spends seemingly every moment decrying wealth, has written a path to earning a fortune. Forbes notes since his failed presidential run in 2016, Sanders has released "a book a year."

His 2016 book "Our Revolution" sold 220,000 copies and earned him a cool $1.1 million. His "Bernie Sanders Guide To Political Revolution," released in 2017, sold only 27,000 copies but still earned him $127,500. His most recent tome, 2018's "Where We Go From Here: Two Years in the Resistance" has so far sold 26,000 copies but his haul has been an impressive $505,000.

Much of Sanders' wealth though comes from the value of his three homes. Sanders owns a $405,000 four-bedroom colonial in Vermont, a row house in D.C., purchased for $489,000 and a Vermont summer home for which he paid $575,000 cash.

Sanders is quite unapologetic for his fortune, quipping “I wrote a best-selling book. If you write a best-selling book, you can be a millionaire, too,” in a New York Times piece.

Other notable millionaires in the Democratic field, per Forbes, are Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., $6 million; Beto O'Rourke, $4 million; Sen. Cory Booker, D.-N.J., and Marianne Williamson, $1.5 million and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D.-N.Y., $1 million.

Forbes also gave a transparency score to all the candidates, based on responses and documentation provided. Among the least transparent were the two wealthiest, Steyer and Trump, based mostly on a lack of providing tax returns. Forbes does, however, note Trump, prior to becoming president, showed his personal bank statements to Forbes.

Nobody should resent anybody who has legitimately made a nice living. That is the American dream, after all. But there is something untoward about a gaggle of millionaires proclaiming they speak for working-class Americans while they decry and vilify accumulation of wealth.

Much of the rhetoric from the Democrat candidates is frequently directed at those who have succeeded in the private sector — you know, actual job creators — yet as Forbes' report reveals, are also quite comfortable having accumulated significant wealth themselves while feeding at, or off, the public trough. Especially writing — and lecturing — about it.

For too many, public service has become a means to make their personal cash registers go cha-ching.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to donate his presidential salary, having not taken a dime in salary since being elected.

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Ruthenberg is a multiple award-winning columnist and writer for the Enid News & Eagle.Have a question about this opinion piece? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a column idea for Dave? Send an email to

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