Brookings Institution scholar Darrell West, whose new book Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust is being released later this week, has another intriguing graphic on the political influence of the extremely wealthy. Last week Brookings posted an interactive grid of the top players in domestic politics, the U.S. Billionaire Political Power Index. This ranking put Charles and David Koch predictably at #1, but followed by Michael Bloomberg and hedge fund manager/global warming activist Tom Steyer, with the likes of George Soros, Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett and Alice Walton filling out the rest of the list. As I pointed out at the time, the list shows that the exclusive club of politically active billionaires is hardly composed entirely of conservative or libertarian types, as some on the Progressive left would have us believe.
This week the rankings go international as West releases the Global Billionaires Political Power Index. This one includes a few crossovers from the U.S. influence list, such as Bill and Melinda Gates (#1), George Soros (#2), and Rupert Murdoch (#7). Interestingly absent are the joint-ranked Koch brothers, who despite being West’s most politically influential billionaires in the U.S., didn’t manage to even crack the top 15 worldwide. It seems Charles and David are only a threat to democracy (so sayeth Robert Reich) here at home.
The other global influencers are a geographically diverse bunch, hailing from such countries as China (Jack Ma), Mexico (Carlos Slim), Nigeria (Aliko Dangote), Saudi Arabia (Prince Alwaleed), Ukraine (Petro Poroshenko), and Sudan (Mo Ibrahim). Their listed interests also tend to focus more on public health, education, hunger, and human rights than marginal tax rates and campaign finance reform. It will be interesting to see how West compares the allegedly baleful influence of the extremely wealthy on U.S. politics with the impact of their billionaire compatriots abroad.