In my brief note that I inserted into Kevin Corcoran’s Recent Thoughts on the Political System, I noted that although there is strong overlap between the wealthy and the politically powerful, they are not the same.

This requires details.

The best way to do this is to come up with counterexamples.

The late 1990s exemplified someone who had great wealth but little political power: Bill Gates. I wrote about it in the now-defunct Silicon Valley magazine at the time The red herring. Microsoft, a large portion of which is owned by Gates, had no significant presence in Washington, DC when the Justice Department went after Microsoft. Microsoft’s main presence was in a different Washington, Washington state. This means Clinton can count on only 2 out of 100 US senators to intervene on her behalf in the Judiciary. Gates and Microsoft had great wealth but little political power. And they paid for it. However, he didn’t make that mistake again.

An example of someone with considerable political power but relatively little wealth is US Senator Kirsten Sinema. He is the swing vote in the evenly divided Senate and he can use his power to get important concessions in legislation. His net worth is estimated at around $1 million. That is rich in the grand scheme of things, especially given his relative youth, but it is not great wealth.

Consider another example: Martin Luther King, Jr. While his political influence was at its peak, from about 1963 until his assassination in 1968, his wealth was relatively modest.

Of course, there is a huge overlap between wealth and political power. Draw a Venn diagram with a large intersection. But there are many counter examples on both sides.

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