The lawmakers’ richer halves

Al Kamen
Columnist September 13, 2012

What do the wealthiest members of Congress have in common with cast members of the Real Housewives franchise?

Lawmakers might not share the Housewives’ propensity for chardonnay-fueled catfights, but just like those Botoxed women of Bravo, they married well.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Specifically, into gobs of money.

Roll Call on Thursday published its annual list of the 50 richest members of Congress, and among those with the fattest bank accounts are plenty who got their money the old-fashioned way — by marrying into it. (And in case the sight of all those zeros was already making you cross-eyed, keep in mind that most of the lawmakers in question are far wealthier even than listed, since disclosure forms may not reveal the extent of their holdings and since Roll Call uses the minimums of the ranges they report.)

Take the very flushest, Rep. Mike McCaul . Most of the Texas Republican’s vast fortune — a minimum of $305.96 million — comes from his wife, Linda McCaul, whose family’s business is a little establishment called Clear Channel Communications. In fact, according to number-crunching Roll Call reporter Amanda Becker, the congressman’s net worth “jumped from at least $73.75 million in 2009 to at least $294 million in 2010” thanks to a generous “gift” from his in-laws.

Or Sen. John F. Kerry , the second most affluent, who has ketchup and a spouse to thank for his wealth, estimated to be at least $231.23 million. His wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, is the “widow of the late Sen. H. John Heinz III of the Heinz ketchup fortune,” Roll Call notes. Sen. Richard Blumenthal ’s wife is the source of most of his $79.61 million, which puts him at No. 6 on the list. Cynthia Blumenthal is the daughter of a New York real estate mogul.

Some women on the list, too, enjoy the financial perks of marriage. Two prominent California Democrats, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (No. 9) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (No. 13), have wealthy husbands. And a newcomer to the top 50, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), gained admittance into the elite club (she’s No. 12) with her marriage to financier Donald Sussman.

Seems there might be something to that retro-sounding advice about it being just as easy to marry rich as it is to marry poor. Pass the chardonnay.

Loosely speaking

President Obama looks to be pulling ahead of Republican rival Mitt Romney in some post-convention polls, but the race is hardly over.

And maybe Romney’s blast at Obama for supposedly sympathizing with anti-American Muslims didn’t work so well, generating sharp criticism even from leading Republicans.

Romney needed to “present himself as serious, poised and credible during this time,” Ed Rogers, a veteran GOP operative and Reagan and Bush I White House aide, told our colleague Phil Rucker on Wednesday. “I thought his statement . . . unpolished, a little too off-the-cuff for the occasion, and the contrast he set with Obama was not good.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who blasted Obama’s policies Thursday morning, was later asked by ABC-TV’s Jonathan Karl about Obama’s response to the attacks in Libya and Egypt. “I think it was fine,” McCain said.

The Post’s Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler, compared Romney’s response with statements from a past Republican presidential ticket — Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush — after President Jimmy Carter’s disastrous effort to free the hostages being held in Iran during the 1980 campaign.

“This is a difficult day for all of us Americans,” Reagan said. “It is time for us . . . to stand united. It is a day for quiet reflection . . . when words should be few and confined essentially to our prayers.”

Bush said: “I unequivocally support the president — no ifs, ands or buts. . . . He made a difficult, courageous decision.”

But that’s so very, very old-school, back in a time before winning the daily news cycle became the only important thing.

So the fact is this race is up for grabs. There are still three huge televised debates on tap, economic numbers to be crunched and battleground states in play.

That’s why Loop fans need to remember to enter the Loop’s quadrennial Pick the President contest.

Simply predict:

●The winning candidate.

●The number of electoral votes he’ll receive.

●His percentage of the popular vote.

Up to 20 entries choosing the correct candidate will win — the 10 closest to the electoral-vote total and the 10 closest to the popular-vote percentage (specify to the tenth of a point). Ties go to entries received first.

Winners get one of our highly coveted Loop T-shirts.

Send entries — only one set of predictions per person — to intheloop@washpost.com. Be sure to provide your name, profession, mailing address and T-shirt size (M, L or XL), in case you’re a winner.

(Congressional and Obama administration aides may enter “on background.”)

You must include a phone number — home, work or cell — to be eligible. Deadline for entries is midnight Friday.

Paging Rosie Ruiz

Think of the Senate, and the words that come to mind aren’t likely to include “speedy” or “swift.” But some members of the usually glacially paced upper chamber are quite quick on their feet, something like Rep. Paul Ryan , who falsely claimed to have run a marathon in under three hours.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has the Loop’s favorite quote of the week with the remarks about running that he made on the Senate floor Monday. Reid took digs at the GOP vice-presidential candidate’s exaggeration, showed that Reid (or an aide) had located a nifty online calculator that converts one’s marathon time into a Ryan-adjusted (that is, more impressive) result. He then went on to make the more substantive claim that Ryan’s math when it came to budgets wasn’t to be trusted, either.

“I ran the Boston Marathon, and using the Ryan math, my time would not have been a world record, but within minutes of a world record,” Reid boasted. “I could have made the Olympic team.”

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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