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Inside the Beltway: Lawmaker millionaires

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Yes, there are some very well-heeled lawmakers out there. The Hill has calculated the 50 wealthiest public servants on Capitol Hill based on their 2012 financial disclosures, and in some cases, bank statements and investment reports. The results: 37 of the richest are from the U.S. House, 13 from the U.S. Senate. The Grand Old Party has an edge: 29 Republicans are on the list, along with 21 Democrats.

But Dems have the advantage among the top-10 wealthiest. Here they are, along with their worth:

In first place, it's Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican ($355.4 million). "Congress' toughest watchdog is also its richest member," notes Kevin Bogardus, who led the research.

In second place: Rep. Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican ($101.9 million); Sen. Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat ($88.5 million); Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat ($83.8 million); Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat ($76.6 million); Rep. John K. Delaney, Maryland Democrat ($68.4 million); Rep. Jared Polis, Colorado Democrat ($60.2 million); Rep. Scott H. Peters, California Democrat ($44.7 million); Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat ($41.6 million); and in 10th place, Rep. James B. Renacci, Ohio Republican ($35.9 million).

And there are also those with slimmer wallets. Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida "reported more modest financial means," The Hill reports. "While Paul's wealth stood at about $455,000, Rubio was in the red with a negative net worth of roughly $190,000."

Just for the sake of contrast: Bill Gates is worth $67 billion, according to the most recent Forbes list of the world's billionaires, a roster that includes 1,342 really rich people around the globe. Mr. Gates is No. 2 on the list, bested only by Carlos Slim Helu, who's worth $72 billion.

ON THE AIR

Al-Jazeera America went live as scheduled Tuesday afternoon, with a logo that looks like skywriting, a promise to "connect America to the world" and video footage that included Sen. John McCain and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who both had good words about Al-Jazeera, the parent news company. Huffington Post media analyst Jack Mirkinson noted the initial coverage looked like "CNN on one of its more serious days."

Wajahat Ali, a social media editor for the new network — AJAM, as employees know it — quipped in a tweet, "Al Jazeera America has been live for 40 minutes. Sharia Law hasn't crept and taken over America. I think we're officially safe."

Not everyone was happy, however.

"Al-Jazeera America, the voice of the enemy," declared independent media maven Glenn Beck.

PERRYLISCIOUS

Forget about California and New York for the time being. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has targeted a new state in his bodacious desire to woo business to his home turf, something to hone his sterling economic record, should he run for president again.

Mr. Perry plans to show the Show-Me State a thing or two. He will journey to Missouri next week "to tout the low taxes that allow hardworking families and employers to keep more of what they earn, and help make Texas' economy a national example for job creation."

And voila: Texas as the "national example" is a perfect campaign slogan. Meanwhile, a $106,400 broadcast advertising buy showcasing fiscal conservatism and opportunity will run in three cities over the next week. "No state tax dollars will be used for travel and accommodations, or for the ad buy," the governor's office says.

The tab has been picked up by TexasOne, a coalition of the state's Fortune 500 companies, privately held enterprises, plus city chamber and community-based economic development councils.

THE FINAL FRONTIER

A round of applause for NASA, oft beleaguered but always hopeful. The space agency has issued a "Request for Information" from creative folk, asking for suggestions on how to re-purpose three historic mobile launch platforms languishing and unused at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The behemoth, two-story steel structures cradled and maneuvered Saturn rockets and space shuttles before they roared off the planet; each weighs around 8.2 million pounds, and is 160 feet long and 135 feet wide. The platforms were built in 1967 and boast myriad pathways, compartments, plumbing and electrical systems; they are also eligible to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

NASA seeks ideas for commercial use, deconstruction or some alternative that benefits the earthbound. Like a nightclub or a fun house, maybe? The request, NASA says, is "the latest in the work to transform Kennedy into a multi-user spaceport for both government and commercial clients and support NASA's future spaceflight programs and initiatives.

GREASING THE WHEELS

"Most voters do not believe there is a level playing field when it comes to businesses that have ties to the political elite. Seventy-one percent of likely U.S. voters say the federal government helps businesses that are politically connected and hurts those that are not," says a Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted Aug. 13-14.

"Just 13 percent think the government treats all businesses the same," the pollster adds.

HELLO AND GOODBYE

Fracking has come between them.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will not accompany President Obama on his ballyhooed bus tour of the Empire State on Thursday, an event that would normally constitute a photo op of the first magnitude for the fellow Democrats. Mr. Cuomo will greet the president on his arrival in Buffalo, then stroll off and hope that no one notices.

Why? Simple: Mr. Obama supports hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, Mr. Cuomo does not. New York, in fact, has banned fracking, though the economically strapped regions in the central part of the state have the most potential yield.

Oh, but it's complicated. Fearful that fracking could damage the local soil and water supplies, local wine-makers and environmentalists have condemned the practice. Mr. Cuomo, meanwhile, is still waiting on a state report evaluating the potential health risks at stake.

Activists with New Yorkers Against Fracking plan rallies in Buffalo, Syracuse and Binghamton, all stops on Mr. Obama's visit. His support of fracking, they say, is "reckless."

POLL DU JOUR

• $45.8 billion: total amount Americans will spend on back-to-college shopping for their children.

• $203: average amount parents will spend on electronic gear for their student.

• $123: average amount they will spend on clothes.

• $105: average amount spent on bedding items, mini-refrigerators and microwaves for a dorm or apartment.

• $105: average amount spent on pantry items.

• $63: average amount spent on school supplies

• $43: average amount spent on "collegiate gear."

Source: A National Retail Federation poll of 5,635 U.S. adults conducted Aug. 5-12 and released Tuesday.

• Murmurs and asides, shopping tips to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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