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Recently released financial disclosure reports show that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia is one of the wealthiest members of Congressional leadership.
Cantor owes much of his wealth to the professional success of his wife, Diana Cantor, who has spent decades in corporate leadership. Most recently she's served on the boards of several companies including Domino's Pizza and was elected to the board of Revlon cosmetics earlier this month.
This morning we spoke to National Journal's Shane Goldmacher about what this could mean for Cantor.
How successful has Diana Cantor been in the corporate world?
She’s been pretty successful. Back when Eric Cantor and Diana Cantor first met in New York, she was already a rising star at Goldman Sachs, and he was just in grad school.
The most recent success she’s had has been at Domino’s, on the board of directors as the company has had tremendous turnaround. People might remember all the ads they aired describing their pizza as terrible and bland and that they had a new recipe. Those were very successful, and she was collecting stocks and stock options at the time. We wrote about how her net worth just from Domino’s was $3 million in the last eight years, and that’s a huge increase in the net worth of the Cantor family. They were worth between $2 and $6.5 million—lawmakers report their net worth in ranges—back in 2006. Add $3 million to that and it’s a pretty significant bump.
How common is it for Congressional spouses to take on these kinds of high profile positions?
It’s not that common for congressional spouses to be on corporate boards, but it’s certainly very common for congressional spouses to be big players in the business world, husbands and wives alike. Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, is a very active financier, very well off. Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, her husband Richard Blum, is very well off as well—he’s a big investor, real estate tycoon. And Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican Leader, his wife has gone through the business and the public sector; Elaine Chao, she was the Labor Secretary under President George H.W. Bush.
Recently, Virginia's Governor Bob McDonnell faced criticism over some consulting work that his wife, Maureen McDonnell, did. How is that story different from what we're talking about here?
The biggest difference is that in the McDonnell case there are questions about whether he properly reported what he wife was doing. That’s not the question here in the Cantor case. Here it’s more of a story of just how much money she has helped bring in for the family. But in McDonnell’s instance it was that she was working for—he reported she was working for—a charitable firm while she was actually working for a private business. By reporting that she was working for a charitable group he wasn’t going to have to disclose how much money she was making. It looks like he may have missed on that reporting.
Diana Cantor was recently elected to board of Revlon, which is controlled by billionaire Ronald Perelman. You've written that Perelman has a history of making politically connected appointments. What kind of relationship does he appear to have with the Cantors and other political families?
Ronald Perelman has been a major donor for many, many years. He’s been a donor to Eric Cantor, he’s been a donor to President Obama—he gave $50,000 to his inaugural fund in 2009—and then last year he turned around and hosted a fundraiser for Mitt Romney. The common note in all of Ronald Perelman’s political relationships is that he likes to have them, Democrat and Republican alike.
One of the ways that he’s cultivated those relationships is through his companies and through his company boards and over the years there have been many boldface political names put on those boards. They range from Nancy Reagan, the former First Lady; Henry Kissinger; Vernon Jordan, who’s a close confidante of Bill Clinton; even Andy Stern, the former head of SEIU; and now we have Diana Cantor.
For someone like Ronald Pearlman this is a way to keep in touch with the political class. In fact, it was reported just this week that he got together with Hillary Clinton, stoking more talk about what her future holds.