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Now Who’s Horsing Around?

Montana Democrats are pumping up the volume on a Republican Congressional delegation to Kazakhstan, looking for more info on exactly how Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) fell off a horse and wound up on the DL for a few days. [IMGCAP(1)]

Montana Democratic Party Chairman Bob Ream sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the State Department Tuesday asking for all documents, e-mails and other communications about the May 2004 trip, which, Rehberg acknowledged, was wilder than most. (It is the Stans, after all.)

Ream’s FOIA request seeks a “complete accounting of all tax dollars” spent on the trip and places special emphasis on an accounting of food and alcohol costs, “specific menus for breakfast, lunches and dinners, including alcohol if requested.”

The controversy started when HOH reported earlier this month on allegations that the CODEL devolved into drunken debauchery. HOH obtained an anonymous e-mail from someone claiming ties to the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan who wrote that Rehberg and Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) “embarrassed the Embassy and the UNITED STATES with their antics.”

The mysterious sender of the missive said Rehberg drank “some 20 shots of vodka, ran into the woods, returned on a horse, fell over (stumbling drunk) was trampled on by another horse” and broke three ribs. The e-mail also said Rehberg made fun of the Kazakh people, particularly their hats by re-enacting a “Saturday Night Live” skit and calling the locals “Coneheads.”

Rehberg denied the allegations that the fact-finding mission devolved into a debauch, telling HOH that he’d be “dead” if he drank 20 shots of vodka and that he only had “three, four something like that.” He went on to note that he didn’t break three ribs; just one, and bruised several others. He didn’t call the locals Coneheads; but they did, he said, wear some kind of “hat I cannot describe.”

The Montana Democratic Party is convinced this story has legs. Ream told HOH he decided to FOIA more information on the trip because, as the son of a foreign service officer, he’s “sensitive to that kind of thing and the American image overseas.”

The Montana Republican Party’s Erik Iverson says the Democratic Party is shilling for Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) who, he says, can feel Rehberg crawling up his back. (The GOP has circulated Rehberg’s name as a replacement for Burns if he retires, or, as a candidate to oppose Baucus, whichever comes first.)

“This looks like just another page out of Max Baucus’ playbook,” Iverson said. “He lashes out, gets negative, hides behind the party bosses and lets them do their dirty work.”

Are You Confused, Sen. Allard? HOH certainly is. One day Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) is proposing a constitutional ban on gay marriage. The next, he’s presenting a scholarship award to a gay high school graduate for his grassroots work with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

What gives?

During a small ceremony in his private office Tuesday, Allard presented the award on behalf of PFLAG — Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays — to Jacob Wilcock of Baltimore, a former intern in Allard’s office.

“Great job,” Allard said, shaking young Wilcock’s hand, presenting him with a PFLAG plaque named for Jeanne Manford, a founder of PFLAG whose son was violently attacked at a 1972 gay-rights rally in New York City.

Allard said he himself is the “beneficiary of a good education” and so should be the case with his former intern. He made no mention of Wilcock’s sexual orientation or his grassroots work in the gay and lesbian community.

But there Allard stood, with officials of the gay-rights group presenting the award to Wilcock, one of 18 high school graduates to receive a $2,500 PFLAG scholarship.

The irony of the moment wasn’t lost on the group’s executives. PFLAG Executive Director Ron Schlittler says there is “a disconnect” in that Allard is a strong opponent of gay rights, yet “here he is presenting this award for the LGBT community for a favored person.”

“People can be really decent one on one. But more generally, with gay people at large, that same level of respect sort of disappears,” he says.

Allard himself told HOH that his amendment is “not a personal matter.”

“I’m not interested in taking rights away. Marriage is done in the public arena and my amendment allows for states to have their own role in defining what marriage is or if they want civil unions,” the Senator says.

Wilcock said he was touched that Allard, although he clearly shares dramatically different views on gay marriage and gay rights, had “gone out of his way to do this.”

Allard’s amendment is just weeks away from scheduled debate on the Senate floor. The amendment states that “marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any state, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.” Those are haunting words to the folks at PFLAG, who say the amendment will erode civil liberties for gay people.

Still, Schlittler says, the group is happy that Allard, despite his anti-gay sentiments, went ahead and presented the award to Wilcock. “We hope that it helps him make the connection that this is real people’s lives he’s impacting with his policy decisions.”

Down With Hand-Wringers. Retiring Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) may have lined up a gig as the new icon of conservatism.

A full-page ad in USA Today on Tuesday, sponsored by a group called RightMarch.com, calls on Americans to “Fight Back Against Liberal ‘Hand-Wringers of America!’”

The ad, which features a picture of Miller, reprints his recent floor speech on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal (which Miller doesn’t believe was a scandal) in which the Senator scolded his colleagues who are “lining up in long lines at the microphones to offer apologies to those poor, pitiful Iraqi prisoners.” That’s when he coined the phrase “the HWA — the Hand-Wringers of America” and said he agrees with Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) who said he’s “more outraged by the outrage” over the way Iraqi prisoners were treated than any abuse.

“Let’s all join Senator Miller and FIGHT BACK against those giving aid and comfort to our enemies,” urges the RightMarch ad. “WILL YOU JOIN AND HELP?”

The group’s Web site says its purpose is to “raise and distribute funds for, to and independently on behalf of conservative candidates in targeted primary and general federal elections across America.”

An aide to Miller says the Senator endorsed the ad and “appeared happy with it.”

Also Tuesday, President Bush’s re-election campaign Web site, GeorgeWBush.com, quoted Miller extensively from remarks he made during a campaign conference call lauding Bush’s economic policies and bashing Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) for his “pessimism” about the economy.

Colin Gustafson contributed to this report.