Al Kamen
Al Kamen
In the Loop

Occupy Wall Street: A long way from Congress

Members of Congress have been largely loath to dirty the hems of their suits wandering among the tents of the Occupy Wall Street folks.

Maybe that’s because it’s a politically fraught movement. (Are they the new tea party? What about the violence? The mess!).

Al Kamen

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. He began his reporting career at the Rocky Mountain News and joined The Post in 1980. He has covered local and federal courts, the Supreme Court and the State Department. Follow him on Twitter.

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Or perhaps many lawmakers simply can’t identify with the “other 99 percent” that the protesters claim to represent.

And that’s because nearly half of the members of Congress (46 percent) were millionaires in 2009, according to the required financial disclosure forms, our colleague Emily Heil reports.

Only 1 percent of all Americans are millionaires, according to data analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics. So inside the Capitol dome, the much-vilified “one percenters” lampooned by the protesters as champagne-swilling, stogie-chomping elites are just . . . kinda ordinary.

In fact, in the Senate, counting oneself among the nation’s top 1 percent makes you only, well, just an average schmo. The median net worth in that august body is a whopping $2.4 million. (The figure for the House is a paltry $725,000, just a tad above the poverty line.) And while there are plenty of ways to reckon who numbers among the nation’s upper percentages, there are plenty of indisputably flush folks wearing member pins.

Consider Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the richest guy in Congress. He’s worth somewhere between $156 million and $451 million. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who is the second-richest, has assets that could be as high as $294 million. Even the 20th-ranking congressional fat cat, Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Tex.), may be worth as much as $63 million.

Of course, Congress’s wealth reporting isn’t exact: Members of the House and Senate are required to report their assets only in ranges, so the figures we’re citing for the rankings (as crunched by the Center for Responsive Politics) are just averages. And they don’t have to report certain assets, such as their fine homes or their spouses’ earnings.

So they could be, and probably are, richer still.

Which means if protesters really do want to “eat the rich,” they need look only to the Capitol building for an endless buffet.

Names were dropped

Condoleezza Rice has written what we’ve been told — our review copy must have gotten lost in the mail— is an excellent memoir of her time as national security adviser and secretary of state during the George W. Bush administration.

Our colleague Glenn Kessler wrote Tuesday that “No Higher Honor” is “the first serious memoir of the Bush presidency” — thus cavalierly dismissing a quartet of tomes by Bush himself, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Hank Paulson. Indeed, the first three — haven’t read Paulson’s — were largely self-justifying ruminations of the authors’ excellent performance in office.

Rice’s, on the other hand, despite some flaws, is reported to be a much more candid assessment of her eight years at the very top of the foreign policy decision-making world during the Bush presidency. Serious policy wonks will find much to ponder.

But the really interesting stuff involves the late dictator Moammar Gaddafi’s obsession with her and her 2008 meeting with him, which she labels “historic.” (Alas, not so much anymore, given recent events.)

According to an “exclusive excerpt” last week in the Daily Beast, she recounts his weird obsession with his “African princess” and his plan to meet her in his tent. She declined and met him in his formal residence.

Then there’s an odd digression in which she writes that she stopped in Portugal en route to Tripoli. The purpose of the stop, which goes unmentioned, was to try to get Portugal to agree to take some of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Rice writes that she also asked the Portuguese foreign minister for advice on how to handle the wacky dictator.

Most curiously, she tells us she was “staying with my friends Ambassador Thomas Stephenson and his wife, Barbara.” (Stephenson was a venture capitalist and major Bush donor.) An oddly extraneous detail. Seems almost a private shout-out to some pals, or maybe a product placement in a movie.

The Daily Beast, apparently without realizing it, gives a clue by quickly following the Gaddafi encounter excerpt with a brief bio of Rice, not in the book itself, that says she “is the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution” at Stanford University. That’s also the job she had before she became national security adviser.

Oh. That Thomas and Barbara Stephenson.

Eyes on the bench

President Obama has asked the American Bar Association to evaluate the credentials of Debo Patrick Adegbile, director of litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The 12-member court, often called the second most important in the country, after the Supreme Court, has been the launchpad for four of the high court’s nine justices. The appeals court has three vacancies, though Obama has sent the Senate a nominee for one of the seats.

Bishkek bid goes bust

The valiant effort of tiny Kyrgyzstan, the only one of the five ’stans boasting a parliamentary democracy, to get a regional two-year seat on the U.N. Security Council fell well short of its goal last week.

Despite a vigorous lobbying effort and, some say, strong support from Washington, Kyrgyzstan, population 5.5 million, managed to muster 55 votes, losing in the first round of voting to occasional U.S. ally Pakistan, pop. 170 million, which got 129 votes. That amounts to a first-round knockout and exactly the number of votes needed to reach the two-thirds majority and avoid a runoff.

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