- Bloomberg has allowed limited access to his tax returns over the years
- Steyer plans a tax increase, has taken advantage of loopholes historically
- Progressives Warren, Sanders attack rich on stump, possess millions in bank
In the latest episode of the Drill Down, Peter Schweizer examines New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s financial disclosures upon his entry into the Presidential field, and compares his personal net worth to that of the other billionaires and millionaires in the field.
Hi, I’m Peter Schweizer, and this is the Drill Down, where we Drill Down on cronyism and corruption in the federal government.
Over the past several election cycles there has been a lot of discussion about the wealth and financial activities of candidates running for office. With the 2020 election just around the corner, many Democratic candidates for president have released financial information some more than others. So, what can we learn from these disclosures?
In 2016, then presidential candidate Donald Trump was criticized by many for not being more forthcoming about his finances. This cycle features two more billionaires including the newest contender: former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg made his fortune in media and finance. His firm, Bloomberg LP, has revenues of roughly $10 billion and Bloomberg has an 88% stake in the company. As Mayor of New York, Bloomberg was required to disclose his finances to the city and chose to let reporters to examine his tax returns—but only for a brief window of time. Bloomberg would allow journalists just a few hours each year to review his returns, often heavily redacted, and would not let them copy or replicate the forms for use outside of the designated area. According to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg used letters to indicate dollar amounts; for example, the letter G suggests a value of $500,000 or greater.
The other billionaire democratic candidate for president, Tom Steyer, got into politics advocating for action on climate change, but made his wealth in part to his large investments, ironically, in fossil fuels. It took him a while but Steyer did manage to release eight years of tax returns beginning in 2009.(5) If elected, Steyer has pledged he would implement a new tax plan that would raise his own taxes by 10 million dollars a year and there is room for his taxes to go up.(7) Since 2009 , thanks to some creative accounting practices, Steyer has paid no more than 26% of his income in taxes, far less than the 37% rate for top income brackets.
Progressive icons Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have routinely attacked the wealthy as part of their campaigns. Senator Warren wants a significant estate tax for quote on quote ultra-millionaires making over 50 million dollars. Bernie Sanders wants to substantially increase the top marginal tax rate on income above 10 million dollars.Interestingly, both candidates are millionaires themselves. Bernie Sanders is worth $2.5 million and Senator Warren claims a net worth of over $12 million. Both Senators have acquired most of their wealth through mutual fund investments and book deals. In fact, Sanders has been one of the most prolific Congressional authors in recent memory, publishing three books since 2015 and reissuing another. Some Congressional authors, like the late Senator John McCain, donated some proceeds of book profits to charity; but Bernie Sanders pocketed all the profits from his book deals. All told, Sanders and Warren have made a combined $5 million in recent book deals.
And there is the case of Former Vice President Joe Biden. After decades of caring the reputation of a middle-class senator, Biden is also a member of the millionaire class with a net worth of roughly $9 million. As a Senator, Biden saw his salary quadruple from $42,500 a year in 1972 to over a $168,000 in 2008 the year he became Vice President of the United States. But even his $400,000 salary as vice president pales in comparison to the money he has made giving speeches and promoting his books, more than $4 million in 2018 alone.
So many democratic candidates like to attack the super wealthy in this country. But remember, on this topic, they know what they are talking about for two reasons. Their expertise comes not only from decades of public policy work, but from their own bank accounts as well.
I’m Peter Schweizer and this is the Drill Down. For more episodes, find us on social media or at drilldowntv.com.
- “#8 Michael Bloomberg,” Forbes, accessed December 9, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/profile/michael-bloomberg/#66ce14811417.
- Laura Saunders and Michael Howard Saul, “A Final (Redacted) Peek at Mayor’s Taxes,” Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2013, https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323975004578501644167537514.
- Regina Zilbermints, “Steyer Defends Past Investments in Fossil Fuels,” Hill, July 14, 2019, https://thehill.com/homenews/sunday-talk-shows/452982-steyer-defends-past-investments-in-fossil-fuels.
- Tomkat Charitable Trust, Form 990-PF, 2013, https://www.tomsteyer.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/2013_TFS_Tax_Returns_Public.pdf.
- Thomas F. Steyer, Tax Returns, 2009, p.104-106; 2010, p.117-119; 2011, p.118-119; 2012, p.128-130; 2013, p.167-169; 2014, p.257-259; 2015, p.284-286; 2016, p.196-198; 2017, p.211-213, https://www.tomsteyer.com/transparency/
- “Ultra-Millionaire Tax,” Elizabethwarren.com, accessed December 9, 2019, https://elizabethwarren.com/plans/ultra-millionaire-tax
- “Making the Rich Pay Their Fair Share in Taxes,” Berniesanders.com, accessed December 9, 2019, https://berniesanders.com/issues/demand-that-the-wealthy-large-corporations-and-wall-street-pay-their-fair-share-in-taxes/.
- Dan Alexander, “The Net Worth of Every 2020 Presidential Candidate,” Forbes, August 14, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/danalexander/2019/08/14/heres-the-net-worth-of-every-2020-presidential-candidate/#27299f0637c5.
- Bernard Sanders, OGE Form 278e, May 15, 2019, https://s3.amazonaws.com/pfds.opensecrets.org/N00000528_2018_Pres.pdf; Elizabeth A. Warren, OGE Form 278e, May 15, 2019, https://s3.amazonaws.com/pfds.opensecrets.org/N00033492_2018_Pres.pdf.
- United States Senate, “Books Written by Sitting Senators,” n.d., https://www.senate.gov/senators/BooksWrittenbySittingSenators.htm; Opensecrets.org, Personal Finances Search, “Mccain,” accessed December 9, 2019, https://www.opensecrets.org/personal-finances/search?q=mccain&type=person; John S. McCain, Personal Financial Disclosure, 2007, http://pfds.opensecrets.org/N00006424_2007.pdf; John S. McCain, Personal Financial Disclosure, 2013, http://pfds.opensecrets.org/N00006424_2013.pdf; John S. McCain, Personal Financial Disclosure, 2014, http://pfds.opensecrets.org/N00006424_2014.pdf; Hillary Hoffower, “A Look at the Life and Fortune of John McCain, Who Had a Sprawling Real Estate Portfolio and Donated $1.7 Million in Book Sales to Charity,” Business Insider, August 25, 2019, https://www.businessinsider.com/john-mccain-net-worth-real-estate-charity-2018-5.
- Michela Tindera, “How Elizabeth Warren Built a $12 million Fortune,” Forbes, accessed December 9, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/michelatindera/2019/08/20/how-elizabeth-warren-built-a-12-million-fortune/#5aefefa9ab57; Chase Peterson-Withorn, “How Bernie Sanders, The Socialist Senator, Amassed A $2.5 Million Fortune, Forbes, accessed December 9, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/chasewithorn/2019/04/12/how-bernie-sanders-the-socialist-senator-amassed-a-25-million-fortune/#85332ce36bfa.
- Ann Schmidt, “What Is Joe Biden’s Net Worth?” Fox Business, June 28, 2019, https://www.foxbusiness.com/politics/joe-biden-net-worth.
- Joseph R. Biden, Jr., Form 1040, 2016, https://go.joebiden.com/page/-/vpdocs/Biden%202016%20Federal.pdf.
- Joseph R. Biden, Jr., OGE Form 278e, July 7, 2019, https://s3.amazonaws.com/pfds.opensecrets.org/N00001669_2018_Pres.PDF.