How much is each party spending on its campaigns? What will the federal budget look like under the direction of either President Barack Obama or a President Mitt Romney? How would their fiscal decisions affect individual Americans?
As we near the election, the values and records of politicians on both sides are in the spotlight, and their finances deserve a look, too. That goes for the candidates as well as the convention speakers rallying support for their respective political parties. We looked at the net worth of speakers at the Republican gathering last week, and this week we're doing the same with speakers at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
So why does wealth matter? It boils down to wanting politicians -- most of whom are quite well off -- to be intelligent, hardworking, honest and averse to greed. Right or wrong, people perceive wealth as influencing those traits. According to a July poll by the Pew Research Center, 43% of people polled say the rich are more likely than the average person to be intelligent, and 42% say they're more likely to be hardworking. The majority of those polled also tend to think the rich are more likely to be greedy, and 34% said they're less likely to be honest.
Along with background, record and vision, an elected official's net worth tells part of their story. Read on for details on the wealth of nine prominent speakers at this year's Democratic National Convention, gathered primarily from the latest financial disclosure data from OpenSecrets.org, which is run by the Center for Responsive Politics. Click here to see our methodology.
[InvestingAnswers Feature: 21 Facts You Must Know About The Democratic Convention]
9. New York Sen. Charles Schumer
Average net worth 2010: $851,000
Rank: 74th in Senate
Charles Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, ranks 74th in that legislative body in terms of wealth. And he knows a thing or two about stretching a dollar: he's one of four powerful Congress members who split rent on a row house on Capitol Hill when they're not in their home states.
8. Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin
Average net worth 2010: $1.1 million
Rank: 68th in Senate
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin recently wondered aloud whether political conventions may soon be a thing of the past: "It’s a pretty expensive undertaking and time-consuming undertaking, and the day may come, in the world of social media, that there’s another way to do this." Nevertheless, he is scheduled to speak today.
7. Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank
Average net worth 2010: $1.1 million
Rank: 185th in House of Representatives
Noted for being co-author of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill, Rep. Barney Frank will retire next year after 16 terms in Congress. But he's not kicking back yet. Tonight, he's set to speak about "the record of the real Mitt Romney in Massachusetts and the importance of financial reform," he told MSNBC.
Frank's average net worth as of 2010 was just more than $1 million, putting him among the top half of House members in terms of wealth.
6. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nevada)
Average net worth 2010: $6.8 million
Rank: 31st in Senate
Disclosure of personal finances has been a recent favorite topic of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who used his convention speech on Tuesday to continue hammering at Romney to release more of his tax returns. Reid's charge in July that the Republican nominee "didn't pay any taxes for 10 years" is unproven, but Romney's returns still haven't been made public.
5. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Average net worth 2010: $11.5 million
Rank: Third in executive branch
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was White House Chief of Staff during the first two years of the Obama Administration, used his Tuesday slot at the DNC to give his insider's perspective on President Obama’s vision -- particularly his decision-making on the auto industry bailout.
Last made public in 2010, Emanuel's average net worth of $11.5 million made him the third wealthiest member of the executive branch -- his post at the time.
4. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts)
Net worth 2011: $14.5 million
It's probably worth noting that Elizabeth Warren is technically part of the 1%, yet made her name as an advocate for the middle class. Now running for a U.S. Senate seat, Warren was a central figure in the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and, as she put it, "created much of the intellectual foundation" for the Occupy Wall Street protests. In addition to lucrative investments, Warren earned more than $700,000 in 2011 from book royalties, consulting fees and her work as a Harvard University professor, according to her latest financial disclosure report.
3. Actress Eva Longoria
Net worth: $35 million
Eva Longoria is one of several Hollywood stars scheduled to speak at the Democratic National Convention. The "Desperate Housewives" actress has her work cut out for her if she wants to upstage the Republican convention's much-discussed celebrity speaker, Clint Eastwood. Among those named to the largely ceremonial post of Obama campaign co-chair, Longoria is expected to speak about issues of importance to women and Latinos.
Thanks to her acting career, as well as modeling contracts, Longoria has been earning multimillions per year for a while now, putting her total net worth at $35 million.
Photo by Rafael Amado Deras
2. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (California)
Average net worth 2010: $101.1 million
Rank: 6th in House of Representatives
Among the richest members of Congress, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi -- along with her financier husband -- owns a good deal of real estate in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as a vineyard in Napa County worth at least $5 million. Pelosi spoke Wednesday evening in Charlotte; she also led a presentation of women in the U.S. House of Representatives at the convention Tuesday.
1. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry
Average net worth 2012: $231.7 million
Rank: First in Senate
John Kerry's wealth would have made him the country's third-richest president in history if he'd been elected in 2004, according to Forbes magazine. That's partly because of his wife's wealth, inherited from the company that makes Heinz ketchup, but also because of trusts inherited from his own family. His convention speech on Thursday will focus on national security issues.
Methodology: For most of these public figures, the latest available disclosures were filed in 2011 and detailed their finances for the year 2010. (For others, we listed the data from the most recent year available.)
It's not possible to come up with a precise measure of the person's wealth from these documents. That's because exact dollar-amount disclosures aren't required. For example, a $300,000 asset (such as a home) would be reported only as fitting in a range of $250,000 to $500,000.
Using the filings, it's possible to estimate a top and bottom of a range for most of the possible candidates' net worth. We then averaged those two numbers and presented them below. For example, if Candidate A's wealth was estimated to range from $500,000 to $1.5 million, it would be presented below as $1 million.