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Frist’s New Digs

After spending his own time and money helping to successfully oust his nemesis, former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) is now dancing on Daschle’s political grave.

Frist recently moved his personal office from 416 in the Russell Senate Office Building to 509 Hart. Ring a bell? That was Daschle’s personal office, most famous for the bioterrorism attack of October 2001, when Daschle received a letter laced with deadly anthrax and the entire Hart Senate Office Building was shut down.[IMGCAP(1)]

Frist’s office is being nonchalant about the move. Frist spokesman Nick Smith said his boss chose to move simply because 509 Hart is roomier. “This office has over 1,000 more square feet of office space,” Smith said.

Many more square feet of office space could amount to many more political miles for Frist, who has cast himself as an expert on bioterrorism. (After the anthrax scare, Frist wrote the book “When Every Moment Counts: What You Need to Know About Bioterrorism from the Senate’s Only Doctor.”) Besides, what better way to bag a trophy like Daschle — “the chief obstructionist,” as Frist and other Republicans labeled him — than to take over his den?

Daschle supporters and former staffers are fuming over the move, which they view as a personal affront. One former senior Daschle aide who asked not to be named said of Frist, “I hope he finds the turd we left in the cabinet for him.” But the aide said at least the Daschle staff did not remove all the “F” keys from the office’s computer keyboards before moving out, much like Clintonites were accused of removing “W” keys upon vacating the White House.

Altar Bound. The budding (and controversial) relationship between Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) and Washington lobbyist Jennifer Laptook, like a winter flower, will soon come to full bloom. The couple will marry in February in Washington, D.C., according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

We suspected the romance was serious when LaTourette, 50, brought Laptook, 33, along to his official swearing-in photo with Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). In the photo Laptook is holding the Bible for her beau and it appears she is wearing one of the special lapel pins given to Congressional spouses.

The subject of LaTourette’s relationship with Laptook, who was LaTourette’s chief of staff until she resigned in 2003 to join Van Scoyoc and Associates, became a bit of a thorn in the Congressman’s side during his 2004 re-election campaign. Not so thorny, though, that it cost him his seat. Nevertheless, LaTourette’s estranged ex-wife, Susan, the mother of his four children, threw her support behind the Congressman’s neophyte opponent.

LaTourette and Laptook’s romance has come under ethical scrutiny, since he is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on economic development, public building and emergency management and she is a lobbyist whose transportation clients could stand to benefit from the legislation that her fiancé writes. The Plain Dealer reports that LaTourette defended his relationship during a campaign debate, saying, “No ethical laws, no state laws, no federal laws have been broken.” He added, “I’m not lobbied by Jennifer.”

LaTourette declined comment to HOH about his pending nuptials. Still, as we are pro-love, we extend our congratulations.

Pyros for Prez. The Inaugural Committee has settled a longstanding question: What ever happened to former Rep. Felix Grucci (R-N.Y.)? He joins a growing list of defeated Republican politicians who have been hired by President Bush.

Grucci was the accidental Congressman who won the love of the people who hated a party-switcher. After then-Rep. Michael Forbes, who was elected as a Republican, switched to the Democratic Party in 1999, Grucci defeated Forbes in 2000. But in 2002, Grucci ran what was arguably one of the worst campaigns in history and lost to underdog Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), and then disappeared.

This week Grucci reemerges in the nation’s capital, reprising his role as pyrotechnics producer Felix J. Grucci.

His family business, Gruccis of New York, will produce the fireworks extravaganza at the Ellipse on Wednesday. OK, so perhaps it’s not quite as dramatic as losing an election to a dead man and becoming attorney general or losing to now-Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and becoming Energy secretary. But come on, losing an election that was as “in the bag” as a New York election can get and becoming the president’s pryo king is still pretty good.

Out of Obscurity. A trusted longtime aide whom President Bush affectionately dubbed “Izzie” is leaving the White House to look for a job in the private sector where, as Izzie puts it, “I’d like to sink or swim.”

Israel Hernandez, 34, first started working for the president 11 years ago, when Bush owned the Texas Rangers. From there, Hernandez followed Bush to the Texas governor’s mansion and on to the White House, where he served as one of five deputies to Karl Rove, who Bush gave the unfortunate nickname “Turd Blossom.”

Hernandez is something of a message enabler for the articulately challenged president. He tells HOH, “The president knows exactly what he wants to say. My job is to create opportunities for him to make that point.” Hernandez is hoping to do something along the lines of strategic communications, crisis management or public relations in the private sector.

The Libs Are Coming. Air America Radio hits Washington airwaves this week on Progressive Talk 1260, until recently a sports gab outlet. The “Al Franken Show” will be broadcasting live Tuesday through Inauguration Day from the uber-hip Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

As part of the show’s Inaugural coverage, lyricist and singer Wayne Lammers has written a song titled “At the Inaugural Ball.” Here’s one stanza:

“A time for us to gather/And pile on Dan Rather/Where we can make more contacts/For future no-bid contracts.

“Security’s so tightened/Vin Diesel would be frightened/Don Rumsfeld’s still the charmer/In his tux with body armor.”

Please send your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments to hoh@rollcall.com.

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