Why does Mitt Romney have so little money?
It’s not a question you hear asked very often, but recently it was on the mind of William D. Cohan.
Writing in The Washington Post, Cohan says that Romney’s estimated $250 million net worth is “a big number, but frankly, it seems low. Given the industry in which he made his fortune (private equity), the era when he made it (the 1980s and 1990s) and the wealth of his peers in that business (mostly billionaires), Romney should be worth a good bit more than that. Why isn’t he?”
To buttress his case, Cohan notes the example of Rhode Island’s richest man: Jonathan Nelson, who made a bundle by founding Providence Equity Partners. Forbes estimates Nelson’s net worth at $1.7 billion, or roughly $1.45 billion more than Romney’s. And they’re both mere peasants compared with Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman, who’s sitting on a cool $5.2 billion.
A few of those dollars went Romney’s way this year after Nelson switched his support from President Obama to the Republican candidate, as Bloomberg TV’s Cristina Alesci reported in June:
Jonathan Nelson, the billionaire co-founder of Providence Equity Partners, supported Hillary Clinton and contributed to Barack Obama in the 2008 election. But as the private-equity executive told Bloomberg TV’s Cristina Alesci, Nelson is backing Mitt Romney this time around, saying he can’t support a candidate who attacks how he makes a living. …
Dozens of investment managers have continued to support Obama for re-election while his campaign attacks Romney’s business record at Bain Capital ….
Not Nelson, whose Rhode Island firm owns companies including Univision Communications and the cable-TV network of the New York Yankees. He has given $2,500 to Romney and $5,000 to the Private Equity Growth Capital Council, the industry’s main lobbying group in Washington. In 2008, Nelson gave Obama and Clinton $2,300 apiece.
Blackstone’s Schwarzman is today best-known as a fierce Obama critic, but Democrats have benefited from his largesse in the past – Schwarzman donated $8,800 to former Congressman Patrick Kennedy between June 2006 and March 2007, a period during which Kennedy’s party took back the House majority.
• Related: Rhode Island’s one billionaire, ProvEq’s Nelson, backs Doherty (April 16)