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Moran’s Marriage?

Brace yourselves, ladies: Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) may be off the market.

People close to the divorced Moran confide that the embattled Congressman has gotten engaged to LuAnn Bennett, who serves as president of Bennett & Owens, a D.C. firm that specializes in sports representation and real estate development.

But the lawmaker is not going to kiss and tell.

“LuAnn is certainly a friend,” Moran told HOH. “It’s speculation on your part whether we are engaged.”

So that means you’re not engaged, right? “I’m just not going to discuss my private life. She is obviously a good friend,” Moran said, adding that he doesn’t want to engage in chatter about “the current or future status of our relationship.”

Moran, who has been rocked by all kinds of revelations about his financial problems and close ties to lobbyists in recent years, explained that he feels strongly about keeping his personal life out of the news. “I give you enough grist for the mill in my public life,” he noted wryly.

Yes, but there’s been some pretty good grist from the private life as well, such as the legendary night when two ladies — each of whom thought they had exclusive rights to the lawmaker — showed up at the Congressman’s birthday party and proceeded to have a dust-up in the driveway.

A new wife could be helpful in softening the image of the volatile Moran as he faces a difficult re-election battle. But Moran insisted that he doesn’t expect to bring “Miss Bennett or anyone else” on the campaign trial with him.

Bennett did not return calls left at her office seeking comment. She runs the Georgetown firm with Brig Owens, the former NFL star who holds the Washington Redskins’ team record for interceptions.

When asked one final time whether he is engaged, the Congressman blurted: “Whatever I say now may change in the future, so I don’t want to discuss it.”

Sweeney’s Strip Club Connection. Who knew that Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) employed the former owner of four strip clubs to serve as driver and “security consultant” to the tune of $84,200 in the last election cycle?

Harlan “Mac” McCart, who had a nasty tiff with Albany, N.Y., officials over his Club XXXotica nude juice bar several years ago, is the highest-paid staffer on Sweeney’s campaign, according to the Albany Times Union.

The newspaper revealed last week that the 65-year-old McCart has also raked in $34,100 on Sweeney’s Congressional payroll as a “staff assistant” over the course of the last two years. The driver refused to be photographed by the newspaper, noting that he does “undercover” work.

Sweeney spokesman Demetrios Karoutsos told HOH that there was no problem with the employment arrangement, though he stressed the paper was wrong to suggest that the Congressional office wasn’t sure whether McCart is still in the strip club business. “Obviously someone who was still in those businesses would not be working for a United States Congressman,” Karoutsos said.

Democrats, however, had a field day with the arrangement. “Once, this poor guy was fighting local bureaucrats to keep his nudie bar open,” cracked one Democratic strategist. “Now, a Republican Congressman is paying him over $80,000 as a driver. Talk about unleashing the armies of compassion — President Bush must be proud of one of his biggest supporters in the New York delegation.”

Karoutsos laughed hysterically when he had that quote read to him. “That’s just ridiculous and so far from reality,” he said. “And quite frankly, I think Democrats have a lot bigger problems on their hands than other staffers.”

Get With the Program. One person who has clearly not gotten the memo about how everyone in town has to worship the Washington Redskins now that the sainted Joe Gibbs is back as head coach is Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas).

Hutchison was spotted last week handing out Dallas Cowboys hats to two members of the Capitol Police who are fixtures around the Senate chamber: Officer Ronald Kaptur and Gary “Tiny” Richardson, who is the chief chamber attendant.

The hats were signed by the meddlesome owner of the Cowboys, Jerry Jones, who finally piped down this year in order to let coach Bill Parcells works his magic and get the team back to the playoffs.

“These guys loved the Cowboys when they didn’t win a game, so I wanted to reward their loyalty,” Hutchison explained.

It’s probably not a good idea to broadcast that around the Capitol, but Skins fans should keep in mind that these cops are armed.

DeLay’s Deaniacs. It turns out that Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has some big fans in the office of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

It’s not that the aides are secretly rooting for a Dean comeback. The bulk of the DeLay staff have turned an audio clip of Dean’s ridiculous “yaaaaa!” speech into their e-mail notification signal.

“This is the REAL Dean Internet campaign and it may be the only thing people remember about Dean after the New Hampshire primary,” joked DeLay spokesman Stuart Roy.

Dinner With Dean. Despite his reputation for being an angry man, Dean scored pretty well when Lifetime Television asked women to rank which presidential candidate they would like invited over for a family dinner.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) finished first in that race, but Dean came in second and retired Gen. Wesley Clark finished third. When asked who women would prefer as their “boss” when requesting maternity leave, Lieberman was at the top of list again.

But when pressed on with whom they would prefer being “stranded on a deserted island,” Clark knocked Lieberman out of the top spot. Tied for second was the Connecticut Senator, Dean and ex-Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.), who was still in the race at the time.

The nationwide telephone survey of more than 500 women also included serious topics. In all, 85 percent of the women surveyed said a candidate’s position on violence against women would impact their vote, while 82 percent cited equal pay and women’s health issues.

Only 12 percent of respondents had heard a great deal from the candidates and media about breast cancer, while only 5 percent felt that equal pay had been addressed.

Up In Smoke. Who knew that Charlie Palmer is a real dude?

The man whose name is emblazoned on the hot new steakhouse at the foot of Capitol Hill will be hosting a slew of VIPs — including Reps. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) and Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) — on Tuesday night for the first installment of a new Cigar Nights Series.

The dinners will be held in conjunction with Cigar Aficionado magazine, which claims that there’s a “mini boom” in stogies. Jorge Padron of Padron Cigars will also be on hand, where participants will get dinner, libation, cigars and a gift bag for $75.

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