Why Would Millionaires Run for Political Office, Anyway?

Would you run for office? Probably not. You don’t need the aggravation. The moment you throw your hat in the ring you become a target. Your life is examined under a microscope and professional propagandists seek out ways to assassinate your character.

That’s the thanks you get for undertaking an unbelievably grueling schedule, humbling yourself to beg for campaign contributions and trying to keep a civil tongue in your head when critics are pelting you with insults.

And this line from Kipling’s poem “If” comes to mind:

If you can bear to hear the truths you’ve spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.

Yet there’s no shortage of candidates. Why?

Some of them might need a job. Especially in local elections, you will find candidates who don’t have much of an alternative. It”s get elected or collect an unemployment check.

But that’s not the case with Congress apparently.

A recent study reveals that – for the first time in history –  most members of both the Senate and the House are millionaires. Here’s what the report says:

Of 534 current members of Congress, at least 268 had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012, according to disclosures filed last year by all members of Congress and candidates. The median net worth for the 530 current lawmakers who were in Congress as of the May filing deadline was $1,008,767 — an increase from last year when it was $966,000. In addition, at least one of the members elected since then, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), is a millionaire, according to forms she filed as a candidate. (There is currently one vacancy in Congress.)

The news stories I’ve read don’t  reveal how many of these elected representatives became millionaires after entering Congress. I imagine quite a few of them did (see cartoon above). But many were already millionaires. The Center for Responsive Politics, which conducted the study, explains:

Of course, it’s undeniable that in our electoral system, candidates need access to wealth to run financially viable campaigns, and the most successful fundraisers are politicians who swim in those circles to begin with.

The Center doesn’t expain why these fat cats are so eager to serve their country.

When you consider the cost of running, the rigors of a campaign, the abuse that’s waiting for candidates, you have to wonder what makes these millionaires run. Surely, they could lead a less stressful life on a beach in some Caribbean tax haven?

They must be motivated by an intensely idealistic sense of duty, don’t you think? Or not.

Click for more n the study.