A populist wave may have propelled Donald Trump to the nation’s highest office, but he is proving to be no man of the people. Trump has already proposed what appears to be the wealthiest Cabinet in modern U.S. history, a collection of elites that includes a billionaire heiress, ExxonMobil’s CEO, a former Goldman Sachs partner and an investor who made millions off underwater mortgages during the financial crisis.
All told, Trump’s Cabinet is worth an estimated $4.5 billion -- and he still has two picks (the secretaries of agriculture and veterans’ affairs) to make.
That sum is 60% higher than the aggregate wealth of Barack Obama’s current Cabinet, which Forbes estimates to be $2.75 billion -- thanks largely to commerce secretary and Hyatt heiress Penny Pritzker, who is worth $2.5 billion. Secretary of State John Kerry, who married into the Heinz family fortune, adds another $150 million. The remaining members are certainly not paupers either: all but three are millionaires.
Estimates for Trump’s Cabinet do not include the president-elect’s own $3.7 billion fortune, or that of any officials outside the Cabinet who are billionaires or members of a billionaire family, such as Army secretary pick Vincent Viola, Deputy commerce secretary pick Todd Ricketts and Small Business Administrator pick Linda McMahon. Figures are based on the most recently available financial disclosure forms for each person and include spouses’ assets. Estimates for those with valuable government pensions were determined with help from Tim Voit, a Certified QDRO Specialist with the American Association of Certified QDRO Professionals.
"I WANT PEOPLE THAT MADE A FORTUNE!" Trump said, in response to criticism of his proposed Cabinet’s wealth, at a rally in early December. Here are his picks -- and how much money they’ve amassed:
WILBUR ROSS: 2.5 billion (Secretary of Commerce)
For a quarter-century, Ross ran Rothschild’s bankruptcy advisory business before starting his private equity firm, WL Ross & Co., in 2000. He sold it to investment management firm Invesco in 2006 for some $375 million while staying as chairman and chief strategy officer. He made millions servicing subprime mortgages during the financial crisis.
BETSY DE VOX: 1.25 billlion (Secretary of Education)
Daughter-in-law of Amway cofounder Richard DeVos, she’s married to Richard Jr., the eldest of DeVos’s four children; Forbes estimates that the couple gets about one-fourth of the family fortune. She previously served as chair of the Michigan GOP.
REX TILLERSON: $325 million (Secretary of State)
Tillerson started at ExxonMobil straight out of the University of Texas. As chairman and CEO, he accumulated more than 2.6 million shares of company stock and hefty pay packages (nearly $90 million over the past three years alone).
STEVE MNUCHIN: $300 million (Secretary of the Treasury)
After buying subprime mortgage lender IndyMac for $1.6 billion in 2009 with a group of billionaire investors, Mnuchin sold it to CIT Group for $3.4 billion six years later. A former Goldman Sachs partner, he also dabbles in financing movies, including Avatar and American Sniper.
ANDY PUZDER: $45 million (Secretary of Labor)
After negotiating a deal to help Carl’s Jr. founder Carl Karcher escape financial trouble in the early ’90s, Puzder eventually became CEO of CKE Restaurants, parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, and has earned at least $25 million in salary and bonuses since 2000.
BEN CARSON: $29 million (Secretary of Housing and Urban Development)
The neurosurgeon earned millions from six bestselling books, media roles at Fox News and the Washington Times and numerous speaking gigs. He accumulated more than $6 million worth of stock serving as a director at Kellogg and Costco before leaving their boards in May 2015 to run for president.
ELAINE CHAO: 24 million (Secretary of Transportation)
Married to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Chao is the daughter of a shipping magnate, and the bulk of her and husband’s wealth comes from her family (including an investment account worth at least $5 million given to the couple). The Harvard grad sits on four corporate boards, including Wells Fargo’s.
TOM PRICE: 10 million (Secretary of Health and Human Services)
The orthopedic surgeon and Georgia congressman owns a medical office building in his home state, plus rental apartments and condos in Virginia, Washington, D.C., North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
JEFF SESSIONS: 6 million (Attorney General)
Sessions, a senator from Alabama, owns more than 1,500 acres that are worth at least $2.5 million in the western part of the state. The rest of his fortune is in Vanguard mutual funds and municipal bonds.
JAMES MATTIS: $5 million (Secretary of Defense)
Most of his fortune comes from his military salary and pension (nicknamed the “warrior monk,” Mattis is a four-star general who retired in 2013). The ex-Marine sat on the board of disgraced blood-testing unicorn Theranos and is still a director of General Dynamics.
JOHN KELLY: $4 million (Secretary of Homeland Security)
Kelly spent over four decades in the military, rising to become a four-star general. He has two sons who’ve served, one of whom died in combat in Afghanistan. The bulk of his wealth comes from his government pension.
Rick Perry: $2 million (Secretary of Energy)
Since Perry left the Texas governor’s office in 2015, he has banked at least $100,000 from speeches and another $250,000 consulting for a Caterpillar heavy equipment dealer. About 20% of his portfolio is in oil-and gas partnerships and energy stocks.
MIKE PENCE: $800,000 (Vice President)
The Indiana governor and former congressman lives modestly and has largely stayed away from commercial gigs. He gets most of his wealth from his state and federal pension accounts; the father of three also owes at least $95,000 in Parent PLUS student loans.
RYAN ZINKE $800,000 (Secretary of the Interior)
The Montana congressman owns a number of rental properties in Whitefish, Montana, his hometown (population: 7,073); an art collection worth at least $100,000; and a garage full of automobiles that includes a 1938 Cadillac.