She’s Toast

Posted January 27, 2004 at 6:17pm

A food fight has broken out in the House over the firing of Verice Foster, a famed grillwoman in the Capitol carryout known for flipping fabulous omelettes who got canned after burning a VIP’s bread.

The unidentified staffer who became enraged about having his lunch bread messed up earlier this month let Foster have it. The incident in the Capitol basement escalated as Foster, who allegedly has had several run-ins with customers, returned fire, drawing the attention of her bosses at Guest Services Inc.

“It wasn’t an isolated incident,” Ron Hallagan, vice president of Guest Services, told HOH. “People don’t get terminated on the first offense. This was thought through.”

But the firing has ruffled the feathers of some powerful staffers whose busy schedules force them to eat on the run and have formed a close bond with Foster. They’re now going to bat for the cook, who’s known as “Reecey” to one and all, and are making it sound like democracy will not be safe until Foster returns for “Rib Day” in the Capitol.

Led by John Scofield, spokesman for the powerful House Appropriations Committee, about 25 staffers have signed an open letter to the president of Guest Services urging that Foster be reinstated. “Ms. Foster has never been rude or inconsiderate to any of us,” wrote the staffers. “On the contrary, she is always helpful.”

The staffers noted that when Foster was on vacation, the chow line would get so slow that many staffers avoided the carryout until she returned. And then there’s Thursdays, aka “Rib Day.”

“The management routinely neglects to make cole slaw for rib day (ribs without cole slaw?),” wrote the staffers. “Ms. Foster will usually round some up for us. She is always trying to keep her customers happy.”

(We’re hesitant to mention the staffer who headed down to the carryout for egg whites on wheat toast and, according to the letter, had a replacement employee ask: “You mean you don’t want the yolk?”)

The outpouring of support may be raising the political antennae of the folks at Guest Services. Hallagan noted that the case is still going through the union grievance process and will get another review.

“We’ve gotten lots of input,” he said. “We’ll take everything into account.”

Political Football. While the return of Joe Gibbs is still all the rage in town these days, the Washington Redskin who’s making his presence felt in the corridors of the Capitol is offensive lineman Lennie Friedman.

Friedman is interning in the office of Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), who likes having the player around. But Garrett is still rooting for a comeback from the New York Giants next year and isn’t about to start humming “Hail to the Redskins” in the hallways.

“Having a 283-pound offensive lineman volunteer in our office gave us a whole new meaning to pushing a legislative agenda,” joked Garrett. “Fortunately, Lennie’s performance in my office was far better than that of the Redskins this past season. Go Giants!”

Hagel Immigrates to Daschle Camp? When ex-Rep. John Thune (R-S.D.) announced his challenge to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D) this month, he appeared at a GOP dinner with Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.).

“The truth is, South Dakota’s future will be much better served by leaders who will work more with Senators like Chuck Hagel and less with Senators like Hillary [Rodham] Clinton and Ted Kennedy,” Thune said.

Shortly after that speech, however, Daschle and Hagel held a press conference to reveal that they are, well, working together. The duo have introduced a comprehensive immigration reform plan that is being taken very seriously by the White House and key lawmakers in both parties.

“Maybe next time, Thune should read Karl Rove’s talking points before he recites them,” cracked one Democrat close to Daschle.

But Thune’s campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, told HOH that Thune knew the Hagel-Daschle bill was coming and the fact that the two lawmakers were working on it together doesn’t change a thing. “We know who Chuck Hagel supports in this race and we know he’ll be helpful to John Thune throughout this race,” he noted.

Without any prompting, Wadhams then added mischievously, “I don’t know if Linda Daschle has any immigration clients. I don’t know.”

Frisky Sanchez. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) was none too pleased when she entered the Starbucks in the basement of the Longworth House Office Building last week and noticed that her signed photo was not included among the Members’ wall of fame.

Waiting in line for her usual grande nonfat latte (with half a pack of Sweet ’N Low), Sanchez was overheard quizzing spokeswoman Carrie Brooks, “I thought I told you I want my photo up there.”

Brooks calmed the boss down by noting that the office is in the process of getting newly printed head shots and will get one autographed in short order.

But one under-caffeinated GOP staffer in line couldn’t help but note that Sanchez has become famous for her sultry holiday card, which featured the Congresswoman rolling around the floor with hubby Stephen and their cat Gretzky one year. That was followed by shots of Gretzky in cool sunglasses two holidays ago and then one of the cat pumping iron this past December.

Can Starbucks expect a photo of Gretzky pumping a mocha latte instead of a standard-issue shot of the boss? “Gretzky has great star power,” Sanchez told HOH. “But his contract is limited to holiday cards only.”

Stripped of His Post. Rep. John Sweeney’s (R-N.Y.) driver, whose background as a former strip club owner was the source of an HOH item on Monday, has resigned his position as the Congressman’s priciest campaign staffer.

Sweeney spokesman Demetrios Karoutsos told HOH that the driver, Harwood “Mac” McCart, didn’t want to bring any negative attention to the boss. The Albany Times Union had reported earlier this month that McCart had earned $84,200 from the campaign and $34,100 from the Congressional payroll dating back to 2001.

“The bottom line is Mac felt it was a distraction and that Congressman Sweeney had a lot more important things to be focusing his time on,” said Karoutsos. “We will be splitting up those duties with the staff until we can find someone to replace him.”

Third Time’s the Charm? Rep. Jim Moran (R-Va.), who was coy with HOH about whether he’s getting married again, has finally confirmed that he will wed LuAnn Bennett.

The 58-year-old Moran told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that his daughter and one of Bennett’s three sons played matchmaker about nine months ago and the couple quietly got engaged on Christmas Eve.

Bennett, who’s in her 40s, serves as president of Bennett & Owens, the sports representation and real estate development firm. One of her sons works as a policy aide for Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D).