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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

He’s THAT rich…

Freshman Idaho Sen. Jim Risch is the 13th wealthiest member of Congress, according to a new analysis by Roll Call newspaper, and is richer than the late Ted Kennedy, Sen. John McCain or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Risch doesn't dispute the report, but declined to comment on it. He's well-known in Idaho as a self-made millionaire, who built a fortune as one of the state's most successful trial lawyers while also building a political career as a longtime state senator from Boise, and bankrolled his first run for statewide office from his own pocket. Still, longtime Idaho political observers who have followed Risch's career said his ranking was unexpectedly high; Roll Call put his minimum net worth at $19.29 million. "I'm really surprised," said Jim Weatherby, political scientist emeritus at Boise State University. "Jim Risch does not come off as a man of that kind of wealth, which I guess is to his credit."

Weatherby also noted that extreme wealth can sometimes be an advantage for a politician. Kennedy, for example, was known for supplementing top staff members' salaries out of his own pocket, to keep key people, including future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, working on his Senate staff. You can read my full story here, and see the Roll Call report here.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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