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Putting on the Ritz

Despite the well- publicized mold-infestation problem at the supposed-to-be-swank Ritz-Carlton residences in D.C.’s West End, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) has plunked down a cool $1.8 million for a condo in the complex.

Lautenberg now joins Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (D-Nev.), basketball legend Michael Jordan and soccer star Mia Hamm as some of the many VIPs who have owned or rented condos at the 23rd Street Northwest location.

The property, however, has turned out to be nothing but headaches for many of the celebrities. Several lawsuits are pending against Millennium Partners LLC, the company that manages the 161 condos, because of the mold that grew out of various plumbing and construction problems.

But Lautenberg sang the praises of the management company — which did not return a call seeking comment — telling HOH that 95 percent of the units have been remediated and he’s pleased with his place.

“They’ve done a good job,” Lautenberg told HOH. “It’s a terrific building. Everyone’s happy — I think.”

Lautenberg did say, however, that he demanded “very specific” promises in the contract just to make sure that everything works out. “I stayed on top of that,” he said. “The last thing you want to do is put yourself in a health-jeopardizing situation.”

The Senator has not yet bumped into actor George Clooney, who’s been camped out at the hotel portion of the Ritz in recent weeks while producing HBO’s “K Street.”

“But I did run into Patrick Ewing,” Lautenberg noted.

On the Mark. After spending 15 years working for Democrats on Capitol Hill, Mark Patterson is leaving for K Street to take a job with financial services giant Goldman Sachs.

For the past four-plus years, Patterson has served as Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle’s (D-S.D.) policy director, a position that allowed him to help craft strategy for Senate Democrats. Starting in January, Patterson will become a vice president in Goldman Sachs government affairs shop.

“Mark Patterson is in a class of his own,” Daschle told HOH. “He is smart, quick on his feet and he knows the issues. Our loss is certainly Goldman Sachs’ gain.”

PuffyPAC Coming Soon? Proving once again that politics is all about the Benjamins, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs has maxed out to the Rev. Al Sharpton’s presidential campaign.

The chief of Bad Boy Entertainment cut a $2,000 check last month to Sharpton, whose office did not respond to a request for comment. The check arrived on Sept. 30, according to Federal Election Commission records.

That was the deadline for raising money in the critical third quarter, when the candidates desperately rake in the dough to puff up (literally, in this case) their numbers.

The only previous federal contribution made by Combs, whose Sean John clothing line was accused this week of using Honduran sweatshop labor, was the $1,000 he kicked in to now-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) campaign in October 1999.

Uncle Ted. The media circus surrounding California Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (R) visit to Capitol Hill today may reach its high (or low) point at 1:30 p.m.

That’s when Schwarzenegger will swing by for a photo-op with his uncle-in-law, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), outside the lawmaker’s Capitol hideaway. The room is a virtual Camelot museum with marvelous artifacts covering the walls from ceiling to floor, and the Senator will undoubtedly be making room somewhere for this new (Republican) chapter in the family’s vaunted political history.

Everyone from the National Enquirer to The New York Times should be jockeying for position to get a photo and a quip from the liberal lion and the incoming California governor.

“We’ll be ready to rumble,” quipped Kennedy spokesman Jim Manley.

Meanwhile, California Democrats were chuckling about the fact that Arnold’s own media advisory about Wednesday’s activities on the Hill misspelled his name as “Schwarzengger” on Tuesday.

Party Politics. John Feehery, spokesman for Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), is trying to shoot down rumors that his wedding reception in Ireland lasted until 4 a.m.

“No,” he told HOH on Tuesday, “it went to 5 a.m.”

Feehery married Kerry Fennelly, a lobbyist at the Petrizzo Group, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney on Oct. 11.

A who’s who of political insiders attended, including Hastert Chief of Staff Scott Palmer; White House aides Matt Kirk and Wendy Grubbs; and Senate staffers Stacey Hughes and Gayle Osterberg. And don’t forget Ron Bonjean, who swooped in on his way to an official trip with his boss, Commerce Secretary Don Evans.

The raucous reception, held at an old country manor, started at 6 p.m. — which means it lasted an amazing 11 hours. “People were out swinging it and dancing the whole time,” noted one insider.

The bride and groom stayed at the historic Ashford Castle for a few days but then had to recover quickly for two reasons: Feehery had to gear up for the Congressional endgame, and the couple decided to compete in this past weekend’s Marine Corps Marathon.

They both finished, though Feehery — undoubtedly still feeling the effects of that long party — didn’t want to divulge his time. “It was very slow,” he joked. 

King of Mediocrity? You’ll have to excuse Bob Russell, chief of staff for freshman Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), for starting to develop a bit of a complex because of the television show “The West Wing.”

Russell has received a fair share of ribbing over the fact that he shares a name with a new character on the NBC show — its worthless new vice president.

“He’s taking it in stride,” Pryor spokesman Rodell Mollineau told HOH. “But he’s saying, ‘I didn’t work this hard to get on television only to be referred to as the ‘King of Mediocrity.’”

Saving General Clark? Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), the chief Capitol Hill backer of Wesley Clark’s presidential campaign, isn’t mincing any words about why he believes the retired general will connect with black voters.

“The real assurances that I have to give my people is that he can whup Bush’s ass,” Rangel told The New York Observer.

“That’s the first thing that I have to deal with — that he can win this damn thing. That’s before they can even get into the whole civil rights struggle — that we can get in there and whup this man and make up for all of the things that happened in Florida and the United States Supreme Court, and all of the injustices that this man has caused them since he’s been in office.”

Other than that, Rangel thinks the commander in chief is doing a great job. Mark Preston contributed to this report.