In politics, a “fat cat” is a rich and influential person, usually one who donates generously to political campaigns.
The expression suggests that the person is bloated and slightly grotesque, like a cat who’s been over-eating for years and has become grossly overweight.
Origin of “Fat Cat”
The phrase “fat cat” was in use by the 1920s in America with the first reference in an article in the Baltimore Sun in 1925 grumbled about “fat cats” as early as 1925.
The article read, in part:
It ought perhaps to be explained that Fat Cat is the significant and revealing name in political circles for the sleek, rich fellows who enter politics for one reason or another and depend for their standing and success upon the liberality with which they shell out the dollars.
The term “fat cat” often gets thrown around by politicians and pundits who are looking for a way to rebuke their political enemies.
In 2009, then-president Obama used the term to describe bankers who were opposed to his proposed financial regulations.
Said Obama: “I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street. The people on Wall Street still don’t get it.”
Just a few years later, though, Obama himself was being described as a “fat cat” and “limousine liberal.”
Headlines pointed out that after leaving office, Obama had charged as much as $400,000 for a single speaking engagement at a Wall Street conference.
Eventually, Obama seemed to apologize for calling bankers fat cats: “It hurt their feelings. I would have some of them say to me, ‘You know, my son came home and asked me, ‘Am I a fat cat?”
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly slammed Hillary Clinton as a “fat cat.”
Trump told Meet the Press that Clinton was going overboard in her fundraising effort and that she had sold out to Wall Street: “She is selling herself to Wall Street, and the Wall Street fat cats are putting up a lot of money for her.”
A few years later, of course, critics of President Trump mocked him as a “fat cat.”
This was a popular theme with political cartoonists and columnists.
One cartoonist drew the president as a portly orange cat wearing a yellow hairpiece.
Another created merchandise satirizing Dr Seuss’s famous “cat in the hat;” the president was depicted as a fat cat in a blue suit and a MAGA hat.
Use of “Fat Cat” in a sentence
- The senator’s campaign has been heavily criticized for accepting large donations from so-called “fat cats” — wealthy individuals who expect political favors in return for their financial support.
- The candidate pledged to curb the influence of “fat cats” in politics, arguing that policy decisions should be made in the interest of the many, not just the wealthy few.
- Despite his own wealth, the politician positioned himself as a champion of the working class, vowing to challenge the power of “fat cats” and promote economic equality.
Taegan Goddard is the creator of the Political Dictionary.
Goddard spent more than a decade on Wall Street as managing director and chief operating officer of a prominent investment firm in New York City. Previously, he also served as a policy adviser to a U.S. Senator and Governor.
Goddard is also co-author of You Won – Now What?: How Americans Can Make Democracy Work from City Hall to the White House, a political management book hailed by prominent journalists and politicians from both parties.
His essays on politics and public policy have appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazines across the country.
Goddard earned degrees from Vassar College and Harvard University.
He lives in New York with his wife and three sons.