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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Conservative Group Engages in Class Warfare Vs. Kerry

Citizens United TV ad calls Kerry a 'rich, liberal elitist.' But Bush is rich, too. So was George Washington.


The conservative group Citizens United launched an ad March 8 mocking Kerry’s expensive homes and habits, calling him “another rich, liberal elitist from Massachusetts who claims he’s a ‘man of the people.’” The ad gets the facts of Kerry’s wealth pretty much right, but plenty of US presidents have been wealthy, including the incumbent. And who’s “elitist” is, of course, a matter of opinion.


It’s no secret that Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz have vast wealth, most of it from her previous marriage to the late Sen. John Heinz, heir to a pickle-and-ketchup fortune.

Citizens United Ad:
“Man of the People”

Announcer: Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Hair-style by Christophe’s: Seventy-five dollars. Designer Shirts: Two-hundred fifty dollars. Forty two-foot luxury yacht: one million dollars. Four lavish mansions and beachfront estate: over thirty-million dollars… Another rich, liberal elitist from Massachusetts who claims he’s a ‘man of the people’ (Chuckles) Priceless.

Kerry’s most recent financial disclosure shows the couple’s assets worth between $198,794,683 and $839,038,000, mostly in his wife’s name. Federal law does not require Kerry to report the exact value, only the general range of value into which each asset falls. And the totals don’t include the value of personal residences (of which there are several) or personal property such as cars and boats, since federal law doesn’t require Kerry to report them at all.

Bush is also a multimillionaire, however. The President disclosed assets worth somewhere between $8,837,079 and $21,936,000 last year, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

The facts stated in the ad are generally true. According to public records and numerous news accounts, Kerry has in the past worn expensive “designer shirts” from Turnbull & Asser, pays in the range of $75 for a haircut, and owns a 42-foot Hinckley powerboat that lists new for $695,000, stripped. Kerry also has use of multimillion-dollar homes in Boston, Washington, and Nantucket Island, a 90-acre estate near Pittsburgh and a ski lodge in Sun Valley, Idaho. The Boston home was valued recently at $12.8 million when Kerry took out a $6.4 million mortgage on it to finance his nomination campaign, and the home in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington DC (owned by his wife) is valued at $4.3 million and has 10 bedrooms and seven fireplaces.

But Bush has some nice real estate, too. His 1,583-acre ranch near Crawford, Texas has a man-made lake stocked with bass, seven canyons and miles of creekfront.

Does Kerry’s wealth make him an “elitist,” as the ad states? That’s a matter of opinion, not subject to being proven or disproved.

Worth considering: Forbes magazine reported Feb. 13 that if Kerry is elected he would become the third-richest President in U.S. history (after adjustments for inflation.) That would put him ahead of Andrew Jackson (who was certainly no elitist) and Lyndon B. Johnson, but behind John F. Kennedy (the original rich liberal from Massachusetts). And according to Forbes, the richest President of all was — George Washington.



Watch Citizens United Ad: “Man of the People”


Gayle Fee & Laura Raposa, “Kerry denies hair-raising charge,” Boston Herald 3 Dec 2002: A8.

Dan Ackman, “Kerry Would Be Third-Richest U.S. PresidentForbes.com 13 Feb 2004.

Frank Rich, “When You Got It, Flaunt It,” The New York Times 23 Nov 2003: B1.

Lloyd Grove, “The Reliable Source” The Washington Post4 Dec 2003: C3.

David Brooks, “Clash Of Titans,” The New York Times 6 March 2004: A15.

Marc Fisher, “Regular Guys Who Live In Mansions,” The Washington Post 17 Feb. 2004: B1.

Ellen J. Silberman and Jack Meyers, “Kerry Loan Twice as Nice,” Boston Herald 25 Feb 2004.

Meg Vaillancourt, “Starting a new chapter; Teresa Heinz respects the past, looks ahead in Mass.,” Boston Globe 7 March 1996 Metro/Region 1.

“Personal Finances:Sen. John F. Kerry” Center for Public Integrity Web site.

“Personal Finances: President George W. Bush” Center for Public Integrity Web site.

George W. Bush President Gives Tour of Crawford Ranch, Remarks by the President During Tour of the President’s Ranch,” Crawford Texas, 29 Aug 2001.