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Puff Chucky

While the most dangerous place to be in Washington, as the saying goes, is between Sen. Charles Schumer (D) and a TV camera, the most treacherous spot in New York might be between Schumer spokesman Phil Singer and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs.

Singer ran beside the hip-hop mogul toward the end of the New York City Marathon on Sunday, but the Senate staffer was so distracted by a leg muscle crisis that he didn’t even notice at first.

“At the 23rd mile I thought I was about to die,” recalled Singer, who was running his first marathon and found himself awash in

pain. “Then I see all these kids start running into the street. I tripped over one of them.”

The kid, who was trying to rush up to wish Combs well, was apparently unharmed as he fell near the corner of 94th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

“I looked up and I said, ‘There’s P. Diddy,’” Singer said. “And at first, I thought that was pretty cool. But then I was like, ‘OK, enough.’ I literally thought I was going to die.”

Then Singer’s girlfriend, Kim Molstre, a staffer on the presidential campaign of Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), dramatically dumped two bottles of water over the staffer’s head and brought him back to life.

Singer surged to the finish line with a time of 4 hours, 5 minutes — besting Combs by mere moments. “I beat him,” said the staffer, who nevertheless got a wee bit less media attention than the rap star.

And despite the pain, Sunday was actually a pretty light day for Singer. After all, Schumer is a notorious press hound who is known to hold media briefings all over New York City on Sundays because he knows it’s usually a slow news day, guaranteeing plenty of attention in the Monday papers.

“It was the only way I could take some time off on a weekend,” Singer said of running the race.

Combs raised more than $2 million for various children’s charities by besting the 4-hour, 29-minute time posted by Oprah Winfrey at the 1994 U.S. Marine Corps Marathon. Singer, meanwhile, raked in about $12,000 for two worthy causes.

Half of Singer’s money will go toward research into Parkinson’s disease, which felled one of his grandfathers. The rest will be earmarked to fight tuberous sclerosis, which one of Molstre’s cousins is battling.

A Friend No More? While most Senate Democrats have steered clear of criticizing their conservative colleague, Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.), one Democrat admitted this week that he regrets having helped Miller by contributing to his 2000 race.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was one of 18 current and former Members of Congress who was quick to pony up campaign cash for Miller’s whirlwind campaign in 2000, which began in late July after the death of Sen. Paul Coverdell (Ga.).

“It was a bad decision,” Durbin said Tuesday of the $2,000 his Prairie PAC gave to Miller on Oct. 4, 2000. “I believed he would come to the Senate and be an active member of the [Democratic] Caucus. Instead, he chose from the start to align himself with Senator Gramm, Phil Gramm (Texas), and the Republicans.”

After easily winning election in the fall of 2000, Miller’s first major legislative decision was to co-sponsor President Bush’s proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut. He’s now getting plenty of mileage out of his new book, “A National Party No More,” blasting Democrats, and last week he endorsed Bush for re-election and pledged to campaign for the president.

“I’m very disappointed with Senator Miller’s comments,” Durbin said.

Durbin was joined by several other prominent liberals in becoming early Miller supporters in the 2000 campaign, including Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), whose $5,000 check from her leadership political action committee was the first from a Member of Congress that Miller cashed on July 23, 2000, according to

Boxer, however, said she had no regrets. She noted that he was the best person Democrats had to hold the seat and that vote helped them achieve a 50-50 and then a 51-49 edge in the 107th Congress. “Zell came in and he supported Tom for leader.”

Miller has returned some of the favors to Democrats, giving out $30,000 last cycle from his campaign account to Democrats and their campaign committees, including $20,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

This cycle, however, Miller has made just one contribution, $1,000 to Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Perfect Storm. Despite three inches of snow falling in South Dakota on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D) signed 500 copies of his own new tome during a morning session at the Barnes & Noble in Sioux Falls.

The response was so strong that Daschle had to cancel a lunch fundraiser that he had scheduled in Chicago because he did not want to disappoint the hundreds of people who had waited two hours in the cold to get autographed copies of “Like No Other Time.”

Daschle finally had to run out in order to catch a plane back to Washington for Senate floor consideration of the $87 billion supplemental bill, so there are about 100 copies of the book waiting for him in Sioux Falls that he has vowed to sign during his next visit.

While the book on the wild 107th Congress — covering events ranging from a 50-50 split in the chamber to the anthrax attack on the Senator’s office — is not expected to be quite as popular as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) recent memoir, Daschle’s aides are nonetheless bullish on sales.

“Maybe Tucker Carlson will have to eat another shoe,” joked Daschle spokeswoman Ranit Schmelzer.

Carlson shot back to HOH: “I am out of the book prediction business for good.”

Oh, the Irony. The House last night passed the E-911 Implementation Act of 2003, sponsored by Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.).

It was, of course, just last week that Shimkus had to place a hurried phone call to the Capitol Police that they should call off the dogs because the scare over a gunman running loose in the Cannon House Office Building was really just a mix-up involving two of his staffers. The pair had brought a toy gun into the building to get ready for a Halloween party.

Shimkus spokesman Steven Tomaszewski was not necessarily in a joking mood about the coincidence, telling HOH that the legislation “has been in the works for a long time.”

“The call made last week I don’t think was a 911 call,” Tomaszewski said. He noted that the bill will help first responders find callers in an emergency by improving the technology on wireless phones, from which 50 percent of 911 calls are placed.

“Last week’s incident was an unfortunate incident,” he said. “This week’s passage is actually positive.”

Medicare Maven. For the first time in his life, MSNBC host Pat Buchanan is keeping close tabs on the latest Medicare debate on Capitol Hill.

That’s because the former presidential candidate just turned 65 and will now be a beneficiary of the entitlement. So he’s finally got a stake in Medicare Part B and all of that other policy stuff that’s usually too dense to discuss on “Buchanan & Press” or other cable shows.

“I’ve never paid attention to that because that’s one of those things where the eyes glaze over,” Buchanan told HOH. “Now I’ll be paying attention.”

Buchanan celebrated over the weekend with a quiet dinner at the University Club with two of his brothers, Hank and James — the latter a D.C. dentist known affectionately as “Cricket” within the family.

“‘Pinocchio’ was the big movie in 1940 and he had that little Cricket — Jiminy Cricket — following him around giving him advice,” said the TV host. “So my brother Jimmy became ‘Cricket.’ They called him ‘Captain Crick’ in Vietnam.”

Everyone’s Favorite Action Hero. House aide Ken Johnson, whose explosive comments helped get Martha Stewart into hot water, has now drawn the ire of former HealthSouth chief executive Richard Scrushy.

As spokesman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Johnson’s broadsides helped force Tuesday’s federal indictment of Scrushy on 85 counts of money laundering, conspiracy and securities fraud.

That’s why Scrushy is using his personal Web site to attack Johnson — not Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.) — and tell his side of the story.

All of the hullabaloo over Johnson’s slash-and-burn communications tactics led some GOP aides to joke about dressing up like the swashbuckling spokesman for Halloween. So what costume did the staffer, whose boss is about to become Hollywood’s top lobbyist, wear?

“First I wanted to dress up as Richard Scrushy, but I couldn’t find any prison pinstripes in my sizes,” Johnson cracked. “So I opted instead on masking as a smooth-talking, highly paid Hollywood agent. Now that costume fit me perfectly.”

Ashcroft’s Asbestos Gal. Rebecca Seidel, known as the “Asbestos Maven” around the Senate, is moving on to run the legislative affairs shop for Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Seidel has been the driving force behind Republican efforts to pass an asbestos bill this year while serving as counsel to Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (Utah). The staffer will be deputy assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, so she will still be a familiar presence on the Hill.

“It means she’s leaving, but not really,” said a Senate GOP leadership aide. “Because nobody can ever really escape.”

As for whether her exit means the asbestos legislation is dead for the year, the GOP aide insisted, “We’re still plugging away.”

Mark Preston and Paul Kane contributed to this report.

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