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DeLay Con Carnie

Looks like Thursday’s big tribute to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) could turn into a regular carnival.

When hundreds of conservatives show up at the Capital Hilton to show solidarity with their embattled leader, liberal protesters dressed like carnies will be standing outside the hotel causing all kinds of trouble. In fact they even plan to set up a mini carnival. [IMGCAP(1)]

The fake carnies, donning skimmer hats and all, are bringing in a 17-foot striker with a big bell at the top and a sign on it that reads: “Drop the Hammer, Smash Corruption.” They’ll also have a wheel of corruption listing “all the things that DeLay has done wrong,” as protest organizer Scott Goodstein puts it. Step right up and spin the wheel. If you land on “corruption” — well, by golly, you win a free bar of soap.

Goodstein said the protesters, organized by the group Campaign for a Cleaner Congress, a project of America Family Voices, will hand out bars of soap to DeLay supporters as they enter the dinner so they can “clean up their act and scour their ranks of Tom DeLay.”

It’s unclear how many protesters the carnival will attract, but GOP organizers of the banquet say the joke is on the carnies.

“Austin Powers fears carnies because of their little hands. But it would be worth the price of the admission to see this liberal freak show and their small minds,” said one Republican organizer of the dinner, which is being hosted by the American Conservative Union. “These fly-by-night antics are proof positive as to why conservatives are rallying around Tom DeLay.”

Where’s the Love? Put former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) in the column of people who don’t like ex-Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

At a panel discussion on the world of lawmakers-turned-lobbyists Tuesday, Armey bad-mouthed Abramoff, a former K Street superstar now under investigation for his business dealings with American Indian tribes.

Speaking at an event put on by Influence, a Legal Times publication focusing on lobbying, Armey said, “He’s a bad guy.”

The Texan, now a senior adviser with DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, was responding to a question over whether the media furor surrounding Abramoff and his ties to powerful Republicans like DeLay have given the lobbying biz a bad rap. Abramoff “wasn’t admitted to my office,” Armey declared.

Armey added that Abramoff “doesn’t look like someone you would take to church and then home to meet your mother.”

Former Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.), who was also on the panel, kind of defended Abramoff, although not too strenuously. “I don’t think he should be found guilty just yet,” Nickles said. “I’m not trying to defend him, but I think he should get to present his side of the story.” Nickles is now a partner in the Nickles Group.

Funny Money? Republicans are making much ado about the source of a donation to Bob Casey Jr., a Democrat running against Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) in 2006.

Casey took $2,100 from famed low-budget film producer Roger Corman, whose work includes such blockbusters as women-in-prison films “The Big Doll House” and “The Hot Box,” and “nurse” films “The Student Nurses” and “Night Call Nurses.” And let’s not forget the old classic “The Strangler’s Wife.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee did a little research into Corman’s films and reviews. John O’Connor said in The New York Times in 1980 that Corman had “a genius for exploiting sex and violence, combined with the ability to churn out movies on very low budgets.” The Irish Times, in 1997, called Corman “the king of trash” from his “tinfoil-and-cardboard scifi epics to lurid horror tales and blood-spattered gangster movies.”

NRSC spokesman Brian Nick said, “Based on Casey’s notoriously negative campaign style, let’s hope for the people of Pennsylvania’s sake that this guy isn’t doing his campaign ads.”

Corman’s movies, while tacky, tawdry and cheap as the dickens, are not considered pornography by most. Corman himself has rejected such assertions. So does Casey’s campaign.

Jay Reiff, Casey’s campaign manager, said Republicans had better watch their hypocracy quotient. “Roger Corman’s low-budget films like ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ might not suit everyone’s taste,” he said, “but Rick Santorum should check his own donor list before he tries to pick a morality fight with Bob Casey.”

Touché. Reiff, of course, is referring to Santorum’s own ties to smut. He accepted $12,000 from Adelphia Communications, the first cable company in the nation to offer hardcore pornography.

Kid Power. Besides humans, you’ll have a chance to bid on airline tickets, art, tickets to sporting events and comedy shows, and even country club golf outings (but not to St. Andrews) at Saturday’s silent auction to benefit kids in Anacostia.

The event, being held at the tony Kalorama home of woman-about-town Juleanna Glover Weiss, is the first annual silent auction to raise money for Horton’s Kids, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides services such as tutoring and mentoring to children of Anacostia.

The group’s board of directors is a bastion of odd bedfellows: Weiss, a conservative, who now works for former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s new lobbying firm, sits on the board with Chairman Matt Gelman, who was an aide to then-Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich.). (Gelman now works for Microsoft.) Karin Walser, the nonprofit’s founder and president, was a trusted aide to the late liberal Rep. Joe Moakley (D-Mass.). Ed Gillespie, former Republican National Committee chairman, sits on the board with veteran Democratic strategist Jim Jordan.

Other board members include Dan Walsh of the Greenberg Traurig law firm, Autumn Hanna VandeHei, a former aide to DeLay, and Shanti Ochs Stanton, an aide to then-Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo).

“Horton’s Kids has managed to bring together arch conservatives and lefty radicals all for the purpose of helping this group of charming children who live in Anacostia in the shadow of the United States Capitol building,” Walser said.

Luxury travel items listed in the auction booklet are as diverse as the board members themselves. They range from a trip to Walt Disney World donated by Disney and tickets to “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” donated by Viacom, to round-trip domestic airline tickets donated by American Airlines and Independence Air.

For the sports fan and golfer, the auction will include tickets to Nationals and Redskins games, golf at Congressional Country Club and Belle Haven and — hey, hey — a football autographed by former Buffalo Bill and vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp.

John Bresnahan contributed to this report.

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