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Lawmakers, Lobbyists Square Off Tuesday

Trading in their wingtips for Nikes and suit pants for drawstring mesh shorts, Congressmen and lobbyists will fight with flailing elbows, a strong defense and serious smack at Tuesday’s fifth annual Hoops for Hope Charity Basketball Game.

After a year of rest and the painful memories of a brutal loss behind them, the 12-member team of lobbyists is ready for the 7:30 p.m. showdown.

“Last year was just pathetic,” said Paul Miller, co-founder of the charity event and, according to some opponents, a key player on the lobbyists’ side. “We’re prepared for a competitive game again this year. Everyone seems to leave their professionalism in the locker room.”

In addition to the original posse of lobbyists, the group formed a second team to play an earlier game against Congressional staffers. Miller says the lobbyists are coming out in full force this year.

The first lobbyist team will play the Congressional staffers at 6 p.m., with the title match-up to follow. Both games will take place at George Washington University’s Smith Center.

Listing a roster 13 players deep, the squad of Congressmen is looking for back-to-back victories.

“I’ve heard rumors that the lobbyists don’t drive as hard to the basket against us, especially if they have legislation on the floor or are guarding a committee chair,” said Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.), a veteran member of the Congressional team.

Hulshof said his teammates should look out for Miller’s slick moves during the competitive game.

“Paul has really been the chief motivator for this whole thing both on and off the court,” he said. “We’ll have to watch him.”

The charity event, which Miller said he and Rep. Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.) began as a friendly game among colleagues, has brought in nearly $100,000 since the inaugural game in 1999. Last year was the most successful ever, with the hoops contest gathering $42,000. Adding up corporate sponsorships and personal donations, Miller reports Hoops for Hope has already collected $30,000 for charity this year.

Admission to the game is free. Proceeds from the event are split between Horton’s Kids and Hill Help, both mentoring and tutoring organizations. Made possible through fundraising and a volunteer base comprised of Congressional staffers, the basketball game is just one way for both lobbyists and Congressmen to contribute to the community, Miller said.

Karin Walser, executive director for Horton’s Kids, said the organization’s nearly 200 students look forward to watching the players break a sweat on the court every year.

“We don’t pick a favorite team,” she said. “The kids just get excited to make signs.”

No secret plays have been divulged, but both teams have their own strengths.

“Some people have said I’ve been more of an asset over the years more because of my mouth than my playing skills,” Hulshof said.

Miller isn’t too worried.

“Because the game gets so intense, we hire professional referees to watch after us,” he said. “Sometimes players question their merit, but we have them to keep us in line.”

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