Washington Babylon — March 19, 2008, 10:35 am

The Company They Keep

John McCain is on a world tour, and after flunking Middle East Politics 101 on the Jordan leg of his trip, he’s now on his way to London, where his campaign will hold a fundraising event. (For American citizens only as foreigners can’t contribute.) Proper attire for the luncheon affair is “lounge wear,” according to the Washington Post, which also reported that the event will be held at Spencer House on St. James’s Place, “by kind permission” of Lord Rothschild and Nathaniel Rothschild.

The latter “may become the richest Rothschild of them all,” according to a profile last year in the New York Times. The story said Nathaniel Rothschild was “close to becoming a billionaire through a web of private equity investments” in Eastern Europe, and that he was “a principal adviser to Oleg Deripaska, one of the richest oligarchs in Russia.” Indeed, the Daily Mail has said that Rothschild’s wealth had “been accrued in his role as the adviser to” Deripaska.

Deripaska’s name might ring a bell. Back in early 2006, lobbyist Rick Davis, who now serves as McCain’s campaign advisor, helped introduce the senator and the oligarch during an international economic conference in Switzerland. McCain didn’t do anything for Deripaska after the meeting, but the Russian was grateful for the introduction. Deripaska wrote “a thank-you note to Davis and his partner and offer[ed] to assist them in a subsequent business deal,” according to the Washington Post.

About eight months after the meeting, the State Department revoked Deripaska’s visa to the United States, due to concerns that he may have amassed his wealth illegally. That’s embarrassing to the Russian, and he’s hoping to reverse his ban on entry to this country, which he blames on “stupid and ignorant bureaucrats.” During one interview last fall, Deripaska said, “Maybe I’ll get the visa when the next (U.S.) administration comes in.” Given his contacts to McCain, through Davis and Rothschild, one can guess whom Deripaska will be rooting for this fall.

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I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

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