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Punch the Clock

The plot thickens in the office of Rep. Karen McCarthy (D-Mo.), where her new administrative assistant has made quite a splash since taking over the beleaguered staff.

Christopher Hoven, the new top aide, has rankled the staff by instituting a time sheet system to keep track of everyone’s coming and goings.

Hoven told HOH that he understands that some of his new policies might throw people for a loop. But he says he’s just trying to “make the trains run on time” and restore order in an office that has been in turmoil ever since McCarthy fell down a House escalator while inebriated earlier this year.

McCarthy has since sought treatment for alcoholism and is dealing with at least two potential Democratic primary challengers next year. She has also been rapped by House officials for trying to use campaign funds to pay for the services of Democratic consultant Peter Fenn, who was brought in to try to straighten out the Congressional office.

While time sheets are rare on the Hill and staffers recoil at the idea, Hoven said he used the device when he served as scheduler and office manager for Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) and has heard of some other offices using them. (That’s right, he did work for the other Congressional McCarthy, who is often mixed up with the Missouri lawmaker.)

“It’s just bringing structure,” Hoven said of the time sheets, adding that they apply to him as well. “We’ll try it. If there’s resistance, you say, ‘OK, I’m getting beaten up on this one.’”

But a GOP aide noted that McCarthy has had difficulty explaining the details of her arrangement with Fenn. “You have to find it funny that they’re keeping time sheets for the staffers in their office, but they can’t find any time records for Peter Fenn’s work,” cracked the staffer.

One insider, meanwhile, noted that Hoven has mentioned to underlings at least five times that he is gay, a subject that is not usually broached in the workplace.

But Hoven said in the interview that he is always open about the subject with his bosses, including McCarthy. “She said ‘That took a lot of courage, and I think that’s terrific,’” he recalled.

Hoven added that it’s a “personal preference” to share that information with fellow staffers as part of their “education” about the subject.

But, he added, “I don’t want it to be a problem. If someone feels uncomfortable, I understand that. But I want to be upfront about it.”

He added with a laugh, “And if they’re uncomfortable with coming out as being straight, I’m fine with that too. I understand the issues they’re going through.”

Trouble in Scarborough Country. The drumbeat is starting to build for the head of ex-Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-Fla.), who loves to sermonize nightly about right and wrong on his MSNBC chat show, after what looks to have been a major ethical breach.

On a recent “Rat of the Week” segment, (ironically enough) Scarborough launched a crusade against wood-preserving company Osmose. Scarborough’s special guest, attorney Mike Papantonio, charged that the company was poisoning children by making playground equipment unsafe.

The former Congressman failed to mention, however, that Papantonio is his old law partner and that the firm in Pensacola, Fla., is suing Osmose. Oh yeah, and then there’s the fact that Scarborough forgot to let MSNBC know he’s still drawing a paycheck from the firm, Levin, Papantonio.

Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz blew the whistle on the scam Saturday, quoting MSNBC Vice President Phil Griffin as saying that Scarborough’s actions were “unacceptable” and that “NBC News is examining every aspect of this.”

An MSNBC spokeswoman told HOH Tuesday that “Joe’s relationship with his law firm still remains under review.”

That’s not holding back Jim Hale, head of the Wood Preservative Science Council, who told HOH Tuesday that the former Congressman should be canned.

“People have been fired for a lot less,” said Hale, whose group represents Osmose. “I think it’s pretty obvious that what he did was not just a minor lapse. It was a gross breach of journalistic ethics, if not his legal ethics as well.”

Beyond the incident, Hale charged that Scarborough is lying to his audience on a nightly basis in how he presents himself. “His viewers think he’s a rock-hard conservative,” said Hale. “But what do conservatives hate? Ambulance-chasing lawyers. The whole episode really says a lot about who Joe Scarborough is.”

CNN co-hosts James Carville and Tucker Carlson piled on their rival on “Crossfire” on Monday night. “MSNBC should be embarrassed of firing honest hosts like Phil Donahue by giving someone like Joe Scarborough a forum to mislead viewers and enrich himself. But the real lesson here is, you can’t trust Republicans in Congress, even once they leave Congress,” Carville said.

Carlson added, “For him to get his ambulance-chaser buddy on the show, Scarborough, and pretend he’s just some sort of objective observer for his own enrichment is disgusting. And I hope he gets canceled immediately.”

With Kurtz hot on his tail last Friday, Scarborough tried to fess up on that night’s program, but it came across in almost a joking way as he said, “In the words of American poet laureate Ms. Britney Spears, oops, I did it again.”

Scarborough acknowledged failing to identify Papantonio as his former law partner and said he “should have known” that the attorney was involved in the suit.

He added that General Electric and NBC “bend over backwards to preach and enforce integrity of their employees and our actions. And they take matters like this very seriously. And so do I.”

In an interesting twist, the Pensacola News Journal ran a glowing profile of Scarborough that ran the day after Kurtz’s story with no mention of the controversy. The story noted that Scarborough was still on the payroll at the law firm and the lawyers don’t complain about the former Congressman devoting most of his time to MSNBC because “Scarborough’s image is great for business.”

Sitting On Their Wallets. They may enjoy the political game, but the folks putting together the new HBO show “K Street” are not exactly active in the process.

Unlike so many other Hollywood figures who write big checks, Producer George Clooney has not been a donor to federal campaigns, according to Likewise, actors John Slattery, Roger Guenveur and Mary McCormack have also been sitting on the sidelines.

The show’s consultants, who have certainly raked in their fair share of dough from various federal candidates over the years, do not pump much back into campaigns.

Mary Matalin has given candidates only $7,150 stretching back to 1979, according to the Web site. James Carville has contributed only $10,810, while Michael Deaver has given out $6,250 over the years.

Producer Steven Soderbergh has a little more experience, but still doesn’t necessarily know the rules of the game. He kicked in $12,500 to the PAC of the Directors Guild of America last year, but $7,500 was returned because it exceeded the $5,000 limit that a PAC can receive per cycle.

Remembering Al. House staffers are organizing a memorial service next Tuesday for Al Davis, a top aide on the Ways and Means Committee who died tragically back in May.

The Sept. 23 service will be held at 5:30 p.m. in Room 1100 in the Longworth House Office Building for Davis, who was the Democrat’s chief economist on the powerful panel.

The staffer, who served some 20 years in the House, died after being hit by a taxicab as he departed from a Metrorail station in Virginia.

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