If your friendly neighborhood billionaire went missing this weekend, don’t fret. He or she is safe. Well, not counting the hangover.
On Saturday, the establishment descended upon Washington for the 103rd annual Alfalfa Club banquet. The uber-exclusive night of hobnobbing at the Capital Hilton is a chance for “Wall Street billionaires and Washington’s insiders to good-naturedly turn the tables on the outsiders who have been going after them,” as one source in the rarefied room told us.
The event is closed to the news media, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an escaped tweet or Instagram post from attendees such as Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Amazon.com’s Jeffrey P. Bezos (who also owns The Washington Post), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) — all of whom are this year’s “sprouts,” or new inductees. Same goes for veteran members such as White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The cone of silence keeps the jokes biting. Because the only other tenet of the night besides lots of swank is self-deprecation. Take former Republican presidential candidate and Alfalfa Club member Mitt Romney’s speech from Saturday night.
Last year, former club president Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took a few potshots at poor ol’ Mitt: “Between running for president and being a Mormon missionary, Mitt has actually knocked on every door in America.”
Our source said that Romney, a surprise addition to the night’s speaker list which included former secretary of defense Robert Gates and Erskine Bowles, a former White House chief of staff during the Clinton administration, embraced the punchline.
“Some have speculated that my religion might have played a part in my defeat,” Romney said. “I wondered about that myself, but most of my wives said they didn’t think so.”
Did we mention that our source said Romney walked onto the stage wearing a Trump wig?
Another good one about from the former governor, about Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton: “There are six words Hillary hopes to hear a year from now: Place your hand on the Bible. The five words she fears she’ll hear a year from now: Will the defendant please rise.”
But the night wasn’t all laughs. Having both (George H.W.) Bush 41 and (George W.) Bush 43 in the crowd gave the dinner a nostalgic glow (the potential Bush 45, a.k.a. Jeb, couldn’t make it).
“In some ways, it was like old times,” our source said.