The Riches on the Right

A surprise from the financial disclosure forms of the Trump White House was how many of the players got rich from working in the right-wing world of anti-government activism, says Michael Winship.

By Michael Winship

Some of the latest hooey uttered by White House press secretary Sean Spicer — the man from whom a seemingly bottomless wellspring of hooey flows — was his pronouncement the other day that having so many fabulously wealthy men and women working in the White House is a good and wondrous thing.

Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

“The President has brought a lot of people into this administration, and this White House in particular, who have been very blessed and very successful by this country, and have given up a lot to come into government by setting aside a lot of assets,” Spicer said.

“People are often told they have to sell an asset or get rid of something to come serve in the government. And there’s a lot of people that have done a lot to come into this administration to give back, that have been inspired by the President’s victory and the President’s agenda to move the country forward.”

You bet, Sean. In a world of haughty ideals and self-professed high purpose, some would call this notion noblesse oblige — that with wealth and power comes social responsibility; to whom much is given, much is expected, etc. And so it should be.

But in Donald Trump’s world, snagging a White House job doubtless will be a solid gold vehicle for using wealth and power to generate more wealth and power for yourself and others, taking optimal advantage of an opportunity handed you by the rich guy who, thanks to the deficiencies of the Electoral College, has landed in the most lucrative pot of jam ever.

And while the new hires may have to hew closer to the conflict-of-interest rules than the boss — did you see the latest about how Trump can keep siphoning profits from his businesses even though he’s supposed to be hands off? — there will be plenty of opportunities to take advantage.

In other words, high-ranking White House employee, those assets that you may or may not have set aside for the duration are likely to be worth a lot more when you and this president are done, even though you will have left behind quite a trail of broken dreams and shattered lives among the less favored of us.

The financial disclosure forms from about 180 staffers that begrudgingly were released by the White House late last week — a Friday night news dump designed to be as cumbersome for the press as possible — revealed, as The Washington Post reported, that Trump, “who campaigned as a champion of the working class, has surrounded himself with a circle of wealthy advisers.

“The disclosures showed that Trump’s top aides have generated millions of dollars from Wall Street, Hollywood, real estate and the media, holding a slew of investments that intensify the administration’s challenge in navigating potential intersections between officials’ personal finances and their policymaking roles.”

Amassed Fortunes

Just 27 of these folks have a combined worth of $2.3 billion, and that is a sum, according to a different Washington Post article, greater than what all the households in each of 80 percent of America’s counties make in a year — 86 percent when it comes to the counties that voted for Trump. Per the Post, in a classic bit of understatement, “This reinforces the disconnect between the Trump team and the voters Trump likes to highlight.”

White House adviser Jared Kushner, who is also President Trump’s son-in-law.

That would include such team players as chief economic adviser and Goldman Sachs alum Gary Cohn, worth between $253 million and $611 million; Reed Cordish, the Maryland real estate guy now in charge of technology initiatives, worth at least $197 million; and of course, Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, the person known around these parts as The Son-in-Law Also Rises.

Ivanka and Jared, a man whose burgeoning portfolio of responsibilities now covers everything from the opioid epidemic and peace in the Middle East to possibly, I pray, throwing himself between his father-in-law and the nuclear football, are worth as much as $740 million.

Eric Lipton and Jesse Drucker at The New York Times write: “Mr. Kushner did resign from more than 200 positions in the partnerships and limited liability companies that make up the family-run multibillion-dollar real estate business. But the financial disclosure report shows that Mr. Kushner will remain a beneficiary of most of those same entities.”

And that’s a big problem, “perilous legal and ethical ground,” according to experts interviewed by the Times. As real estate investors, the Kushner family attracts money from China, Russia, the Middle East and other places where American foreign policy has an interest.

What’s more, the banks with which the Kushners deal are regulated by governments here and abroad and stand to gain from Trump pledges to roll back the Dodd-Frank reforms, among others. Some, such as Israel’s Bank Hapoalim, are under federal investigation. The tax code reform that Trump claims to be a high priority will impact the Kushners and their financial interests, too.

One other thing. Looking at the disclosure forms, what’s also striking is how many of the fortunate now staking their claims at the executive mansion made much of their money not via inheritance or banks or industry but in the world of political consulting, a field that has exploded with the infusion of millions now made possible by Citizens United and other court decisions. Those rulings have helped open a fire hose of dark money, much of it from the Right — especially the Koch brothers and the Mercers, father and daughter — and it floods the electoral landscape with a deluge of cant and propaganda.

Presidential adviser and mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway, a pollster and consultant, has assets valued at between $11 million and more than $44 million. Last year she made $842,614 from a reported 75 sources of income, including Tea Party Patriots and the Judicial Crisis Network, which has been bankrolling a big media campaign in support of Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch.

And while Steve Bannon made his initial fortune in international investment banking (including Goldman Sachs), an irony given his current anti-globalist nationalism and economic populism, in recent years he has made a lot of his cash from ventures in right-wing publishing (Breitbart), filmmaking, analysis and consulting. His assets are now listed as between $13 million and $56 million.

At AlterNetSteven Rosenfeld writes: “While most press reports have focused on the potential for financial conflicts of interest posed by the multibillions in holdings by numerous White House officials, the personal financial statements show how key political advisers became rich via their extreme anti-government activism.”

The profit opportunities are rife, deeply tempting and not just for Trump’s nearest and dearest. This wealthiest administration in American history is going to make for its selected few a bundle of a size unimaginable to the rest of us — yet we’re the ones who will be paying the bill.

And when this gang leaves their government jobs, they’ll be making even more, spinning through the revolving door back into the private sector, their worth enhanced by the time they’ve spent working for this mudslide of a president. Welcome to the plutocracy.

Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelWinship. [This story first appeared at]

10 comments for “The Riches on the Right

  1. April 7, 2017 at 22:49

    “…the rich guy who, thanks to the deficiencies of the Electoral College, has landed in the most lucrative pot of jam ever.”

    But if there weren’t these purported “deficiencies of the Electoral College” wouldn’t it just be that the Clinton Foundation wouldn’t have folded from pay for play irrelevancy, with the Clinton dynasts the honey bears smearing themselves in that same lucrative pot of jam?

  2. Anonymous
    April 7, 2017 at 08:56

    There are Many Americans who Believe that the Homeless have a Moral Right to have the Government spend Money on them, before giving 50 Billion Dollars to the Evil Military Industrial Complex.

    If the Dishonorable Members of Congress and the Dishonorable Members of the Senate do Not know these things, then they Should Spend a Few Days and Nights on the Streets, preferably during Winter, and the same Goes for the Director of the FBI and the Director of the NSA and the Director of the CIA and other Intelligence Agencies, and for certain American Generals and those in the Trump Administration, and that Goes for the Corrupt Mainstream Journalists and that Goes for Mister Trump Tower and Mister Mar a Lago, and this would include All Officials working for the Administration of President George Bush the first, and during the Vice Presidency of Bill Clinton where Hillary Clinton was the Unofficial yet Real President, and during the Puppet Obama Administration, and including All of the Officials of the Trump Administration, along with Big Business and Big Banks.

    We All Know that Donald Trump is long time Good Friends with the Clintons, going back to the time that Chelsea Clinton was young, and so that indicates that their Friendship is a long time Friendship.

    President Donald Trump plays Golf with Bill Clinton and does President Donald Trump have a different opinion to that of Hillary Clinton on the Surveillance State, because it has been said that the American Shadow Regime uses their Surveillance State to Blackmail People.

    There are Americans who are thinking that any Family that owns Hundreds of Trillions of Dollars should be Investigated Under Oath for whether having that much Wealth, or the way they made that Money makes them guilty of genocide and crimes against Humanity, and if an Investigation Under Oath into the other Business and Government People that I mentioned, because of the context of the potential for subverting the Will of the Voters at .

    The Clinton Foundation has withheld Billions of Dollars since 2010 that were Donated by Americans and foreigners for the Haiti Earthquake, and were intended to build the shattered homes of men, women, and children, and All Dishonorable American Politicians Know these things, and the American Mainstream Journalists Know these things with the Fact that the Clinton residence can be reached with a Court Order to Pay what they Owe to the People of Haiti.

    A foreign Country did Not hack the DNC, Regardless of All of the LIES, and the Congressional Medal of Honor should be given to the one of the Few Honest Democrats who Leaked those Emails to WikiLeaks, so that Americans can Know that Not All Democrats are Vile, Putrid, and Corrupt, and this is Why the 2 Party Tyranny in America may not want to posthumously give the Congressional Medal of Honor to the DNC’s former Computer Expert Seth Rich for Services to America.

    It could be possible that it was Bill Clinton and President Donald Trump who play Golf, because that is the way Not be be Spied on at the golf course, may have come up with a Scheme of putting Billions of Dollars in their Secret Bank Accounts.

    The Scheme involved Donald Trump becoming President, and then Blackmailing the American Shadow Regime for Billions of Dollars to have Donald Trump leave the Presidency.

    It would involve either a Subtle Coup or such as an Impeachment, or because of self manufactured Unpopularity, or a Fake health issue, or some other Subtle and Cunning Deception, or it might Involve Donald Trump being a Puppet President to the American Shadow Regime to receive his Billions in Bribes.

    There could be some Democrats who think that the Republicans have the Proof for this provided by the Clintons, and perhaps the Republicans are waiting to use it on the Democrats at the next Election, where Seth Rich will be posthumously given the Congressional Medal of Honor for Services to what will be said to be American Democracy.

    We have seen how the American Shadow Regime has tried to Falsely Blame Russia for why Hillary Clinton lost the Election, but this is such an Obvious Lie.

    The Republican National Committee did Not need Russia’s money for the Election, because they had Enough of their own Money, and Hillary Clinton Spent much more on her Campaign than what Donald Trump did, and Russia did Not hack the Voting Machines, otherwise even the Traitors would have to Very Reluctantly suggest that Only Paper Ballots to be used for Elections, and the Traitors want the Corrupt Voting Machines so that they can Rig Elections Easier, and the Republican National Committee did Not need Russia as their Speech Writer, and so Russia did Not interfere with the American Election.

    If the Lies during the Election Campaign suggesting that Russia had any influence on how Americans Voted, then it would have Only Helped Hillary Clinton, because Voters thought that a foreign Country was trying to influence the Election, and we Know that this FACT is Known by the LIARS who include the Director of the FBI and the Director of the NSA and the rest of the Deliberate Liars.

    We Know that the last time there was a chemical attack in Syria, that it was Proved that it was done by America and its Terrorist Puppets in Syria at , and the rest of it is at , and Steve Bannon Knew these things, and was Pressured to retire .

    There are Americans who have enough Self Respect for Themselves and for other Americans, that they will Not allow themselves to be influenced in the slightest way by other Americans who are Corrupt Liars, who Deliberately Lie that Russia interfered with America’s Election, or those that are that Gullible that they would believe such nonsense, and these Americas want it to be Declared that the Russia Investigation into America’s recent Election has long ago Proven Beyond All Doubt that Russia did Not interfere in America’s Election, but that this Lie was Invented by the previous Administration for Convenience to try to justify their Criminal actions of Spying on an Opposition Political Party, because if that Convenient Lie had not been invented, then that Spying would have Unambiguously been an Act of Treason, which it Most Certainly was, and the American Shadow Regime Loves Traitors and Protects Traitors, because they Themselves are Unelected Traitors to the American People.

    There Could be some People who think that Dictatorial Terrorist America and Dictatorial Terrorist Saudi Arabia are working on Implementing a Saudi Arabian Version of the American Constitution for Saudi Arabia.

    It would Of Course be slightly modified, but it would have Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, and Voting for Free and Fair Elections, and Syria has had these for a long time Mister American Democracy Hypocrisy, and Syria also has had American Funded and Supported ISIS Terrorists, and American Funded and Supported so called Moderate Terrorists.

    If the American People had wanted a Warmonger they would have voted for Hillary Clinton like they thought they were doing Voting for Mister hope and change, and we can see why Senator Sanders was Not allowed to become the President.

    This is why there are Many Americans who want a New Political Party, and who will Not Vote for the RepTHUGlicans or the CORRUPTocraps at the next Election, because they are Puppets of America’s Unelected Shadow Regime.

  3. R Davis
    April 7, 2017 at 05:02

    The story of rag to riches .. it pay to be obliging .. hey.
    No one has ever asked me to be a member of rent a crowed .. I can be just as good of a “yes” person as anyone .. & it would be a nice change to have money .. filthy though it is.

  4. mike k
    April 6, 2017 at 13:02

    Unfortunately, too many among us have drunk the koolade dispensed by the rich which claims that they are indispensable, and inevitable. That’s a lie.

  5. mike k
    April 6, 2017 at 12:57

    Rich people cause most of the harm in our world. It has been so throughout history. We must stop them. We need a world without rich people. Our attempts to do this so far have been limited in effect. However now the time is late; we must eliminate this curse before it eliminates all of us.

    • Beard68
      April 7, 2017 at 16:06

      Move to North Korea. No evil rich people there.

  6. Bill Bodden
    April 6, 2017 at 11:57

    This article from the Asia Times should be a cause for concern:

    “Pretty vacant: Trump’s Asia team. When the American leader meets his Chinese counterpart in Florida he will do so without the benefit of a dedicated team of regional specialists” –

    “When US President Donald Trump meets with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Florida, he will do so without the benefit of a team of Asian specialists to guide his diplomacy and draft his talking points. Asia policy to date has been steered chiefly by the White House, with Trump’s son-in-law and foreign policy neophyte Jared Kushner playing an outsized role.”

    “His replacement, former top general H.R. McMaster, has added to the confusion with the removal of top aide Stephen Bannon from the NSC’s core policy-making committee. Bannon, a former right-wing journalist, was widely viewed as the top anti-China hawk in Trump’s inner circle and the presumed ghost writer of Trump’s sometimes threatening tone toward Beijing.”

  7. Sam F
    April 6, 2017 at 10:55

    Let us not forget the riches on the fake Left of Killary’s Democrats, of whom the top ten contributors (over $100 million total) were all Jewish, nor the fact that the DNC emails show her consulting no one but Jews on Mideast policy. And let’s not forget that nearly all US mass media are directly or indirectly controlled by Jews. No coincidences there.

    The Dems are plainly operated by a foreign power to the extreme detriment of US military and financial security, and their leaders should all be in jail for this. They had their chance to protect elections and mass media from the big money when they had the presidency and majorities in both houses in 2008-9, and they did absolutely nothing, so clearly subversion of democracy was their agenda then and now.

    We already know that the Repubs have sought to overthrow the Constitution for private gain for a century; now we know that the both parties have no other purpose and must be utterly destroyed, along with the mass media, to restore democracy.

  8. mike k
    April 6, 2017 at 10:39

    Money is God in the US. Wall Street should have a Golden Calf in front of the trading floor, but they are probably afraid someone would steal it for it’s $$$$$$$$value.

Comments are closed.