The position of defense secretary is one of the most high-profile jobs a president can bestow, but it can come at a high personal cost — literally.
To avoid conflicts of interest, nominees are asked to sell off their financial holdings in companies that do business with the Pentagon.
That doesn’t just mean big defense contractors like Lockheed Martin or BAE Systems. Thousands upon thousands of companies today serve as vendors to the Defense Department, which buys everything from soda to tanks for its troops and employees around the world.
This makes the department unique among other government agencies, but it also means that taking charge of it can be a costly proposition — more costly than, say, running the State Department.
For someone like Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), reportedly under consideration to be nominated for either defense secretary or secretary of state, the position he winds up with would have a big impact on his and his family’s personal wealth.
In 2011, Kerry was ranked the wealthiest member of the Senate, according to his financial disclosure forms, with a reported net worth of around $193 million.
His most recent disclosure form shows a wide array of publicly traded stocks and financial holdings — some in companies that do business with DoD.
A 2008 report by the Center for Responsive Politics estimated Kerry had between $29 million and $38 million invested in companies that received defense contracts between 2004 and 2006, putting him at the top of the list of lawmakers with investments in companies with DoD contracts. [++]