Weston Wamp takes shots at Occupy movement

Weston Wamp takes shots at Occupy movement

December 31st, 2011 by Chris Carroll in News

Weston Wamp Contributed photo

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

POLL: Is the Occupy movement making a difference?

He's a 24-year-old with a communications degree and his first fulltime job.

Since he decided to run for Congress, he has said "young people in this country need to step up and lead," calling himself a leader of "the debt-paying generation" and a "working-class" candidate fed up with "the status quo."

Such statements make Weston Wamp sounds distinctly like one of the Occupy Wall Street folks.

Not even close.

In a fundraising letter he posted online three days before Christmas, Wamp bashed Occupy protesters for "simply whining and griping about our nation's challenges rather than rolling up their sleeves."

The line was unprovoked. Occupy Chattanooga, the local branch of the national anti-political-corruption movement, hadn't said anything about Wamp to that point. They had even protested Wamp's GOP primary opponent, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, when House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, visited Chattanooga for a $1,000-a-couple Fleischmann fundraiser.

Landon Howard, a Chattanooga resident and spokesman for the local Occupy movement, said Wamp, son of eight-term former congressman Zach Wamp, is misguided.

"He was born with status and influence, so it's easy for him to say all this," Howard said. "That's the whole system the Occupy movement is trying to counteract -- this political royalty where people naturally rise up."

Records show 72 percent of Weston Wamp's top donors to date gave money to his father's gubernatorial campaign, congressional campaigns or both.

Several Twitter users criticized Wamp's criticism when it first appeared, with one observer saying, "labeling Occupy movement as whiners/gripers needlessly closes a door of opportunity for you."

But in a recent Chattanooga Times Free Press interview, Wamp piled on, slamming what he called the "makeup" of local protesters.

"These people, at least in Chattanooga, many of them appear to be homeless," he said. "They don't have anything better to do than to hang out and protest."

Howard, 29, said Wamp doesn't know what he is talking about.

"He's never visited us," Howard said, adding that some protesters work 60 hours a week in addition to Occupy work.

Howard conceded that a few protesters are homeless. Economic disparities give them "more reason to be there than most people," he said.

Wamp said he agrees with some aspects of the Occupy movement, including a stance against "corporate corruption." But he said he's against higher taxes on the nation's wealthiest, a key part of Occupy's "We are the 99 percent" rallying cry.

"I don't think the [richest] 1 percent are the problem," Wamp said.

Wamp's fundraising letter came about a week before the deadline for congressional candidates to submit year-end campaign finance disclosures. When the disclosures become public, they will be an indicator into how well-funded his effort will be against Fleischmann, who will have more than $500,000 on hand, according to his aides.

Democrat Bill Taylor and Republicans Ron Bhalla and Jean Howard-Hill, all of Chattanooga, also are challenging Fleischmann.