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Heard on the Hill: Gossip From Kazakhstan to the House Lounge

In celebration of Roll Call’s 50th anniversary, please allow me the opportunity to thank all of you for reading!

Special thanks to all my sources out there (let’s not name names, you know who you are) who have kept HOH well-fed with gossip over the past year and to those lawmakers who have taken the brunt of my lampooning, happily or not.

In particular, I’d like to single out the Montana delegation for its wild time in Kazakhstan, where Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) threw back several shots of vodka, fell off a horse, got trampled on by another, broke a rib and allegedly called the locals “cone heads.” [IMGCAP(1)]

Thanks to Rep. Steven Rothman (D-N.J.) for his “J Date” listing, to potty mouth Vice President Cheney, to Dead Head Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), to GOP aides who turn tricks during lunch, to Democratic aides who have wedding blogs, and to a married Member of Congress who admitted only to giving a massage to the young woman who called 911 from his apartment.

Also, thanks to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who now obeys the D.C. “handless” cellphone law while driving on account of her almost sideswiping a Roll Call reporter, to Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) for getting hot under the collar on the House floor, to Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) for his unsolicited sartorial advice, to the Democratic Members who live in the Animal House for behaving like pigs (but only at home), to Rep. Butch Otter (R-Idaho) for wearing tight jeans, to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) for getting facelifts, and to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) for humbly accepting the “hottest Senator” award.

And, of course, thanks to Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) for playing a mean game of golf with lobbyists!

But I’ve only been writing this column for a year; I have little experience to share. So let me turn you over to my predecessors, Ed Henry, now a correspondent for CNN, and Craig Winneker, who is now a dashing ex-pat living and writing in Brussels.

ED HENRY

The best part of writing Heard on the Hill, hands-down, was the anonymous calls that came completely out of the blue from Hill staffers who heard a piece of gossip so juicy they couldn’t resist the urge to drop a dime and tell me, “I just thought this was a perfect HOH item.”

I distinctly remember the moment a couple of years ago when I got a phone call from a Hill staffer — I still don’t even know who you are — who said that on his commute to the Hill that morning he had seen an SUV smash into a parked car. He added that he was shocked to see who got out of the SUV to inspect the damage: “[Rep.] Katherine Harris [R-Fla.] walks out in a white tae kwon do outfit.”

That mental picture of the woman involved in the Florida election controversy of 2000 was priceless — so I immediately knew it was going to be a delightful day.

Chasing down reaction from Members of Congress as I sought to verify these gossip items had to be the second best part of the job. Some lawmakers reacted with anger — others with exasperation. The smart ones would play ball, assuming correctly that I would bend over backwards to be fair (especially to those lawmakers who didn’t take themselves too seriously).

One of my favorite exchanges came with Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), who had grown a bit tired of a string of items I had written about his various adventures. So on one occasion, after listening carefully to the latest anecdote I had heard about him, Kennedy finally said with a confident chuckle, “Is that all you got? Come on, I mean I get a call from Ed Henry and I expect to hear something juicier than that.”

I gave Kennedy props for making light of the fact that he was a frequent target and this particular item didn’t quite rise (or fall) to the level of gossip he was used to. I also thought it was fair for him to turn around and rib me. So I agreed with his assessment that this item was pretty weak — a bit of a low blow — and decided not to run it.

While HOH is a “gossip” column, I always tried (and sometimes succeeded) to bring readers inside the cloakrooms and backrooms without going overboard — to poke a little fun without being really mean. Finding that balance was easier than it might sound because I had 535 joke writers (to paraphrase a line from comedian Mark Russell). If you think I was even a little funny, it’s only because of the 100 Senators and 435 House Members who have given me such rich material on the lighter side of Capitol Hill.

Like the time in 1999 when an intoxicated guest urinated in a potted plant at a swearing-in party for Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas) at a swank D.C. restaurant, giving me the chance to dub the restaurant the “Accidental” Grill and write the headline “Yellow Journalism.”

There were more serious items as well, such as the time a Democrat walking through Lafayette Park found a computer disk belonging to White House aide Karl Rove containing a confidential political strategy presentation. A report on the documents wound up in HOH and made some national headlines.

You could not possibly make this stuff up. In a way, I often felt like I was simply eavesdropping on the ultimate reality show. Here were some of my favorite “episodes”:

Stockpiling Stewardesses. A slip of the tongue by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) provided some of the only comic relief during the tough debate over the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in October 1999.

During a floor speech about the nuclear treaty, Kennedy meant to say the Senate should support continued funding for the federal “Stockpile Stewardship Program.” Instead, Kennedy accidentally referred to the “Stockpile Stewardess Program.”

Fly on the Wall. Based on Rep. Tom DeLay’s (R-Texas) behavior at a closed-door GOP leadership meeting, one thing is clear: You can take the man out of the extermination business, but you can’t take the exterminator out of the man.

DeLay watched in amusement as an enormous and annoying fly terrorized senior lawmakers and staffers for nearly 45 minutes at a super-serious meeting about Iraq in Speaker Dennis Hastert’s (R-Ill.) office.

The fly then landed on Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who tried in vain to swat it. Then the fly decided to dive-bomb into the food, followed by a full landing on another lawmaker’s arm. Then the miscreant made the grave mistake of landing on the table between Hastert and DeLay, who seemed to feel a rush of nostalgia.

DeLay “got this look,” said one eyewitness. “His eyes kind of squinted. Then he reached slowly, slowly and caught the fly in mid-air.”

Then DeLay showed his colleagues a thing or two. “He stood up and flung the fly against the fireplace,” said the source. “It falls to the ground and wham — he stomps all over it.”

When the meeting broke up, DeLay was heard mumbling, “The Democrats are next.”

Sex and the City. Just as the saga of then-Rep. Gary Condit (D-Calif.) was starting to calm down in 2001, copies of a titillating story in Vanity Fair magazine started humming through fax machines all around the Capitol.

Written as a post-Condit survey of the social scene on the Hill, the explosive story featured a minute-by-minute account of House GOP aide Diana Davis’ sexual conquests and relentless networking into the wee hours of the morning.

Davis, a blonde who boasted about her “fake ‘n’ bake” tan, revealed that she had a one-night stand with a 29-year-old staffer whose sex appeal revolved around one thing.

“He was powerful,” Davis said. “He knew Tom DeLay.” They had dinner at the Capital Grille, with Davis ordering lobster.

“I slept with him that night,” she said. “I wish I hadn’t, it was too fast. He stopped e-mailing me.”

The most sensational part of the Vanity Fair story, which forced the 22-year-old Davis to resign from her job with Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), involved a “rowdy get-together” at the Capital Grille with several Democratic Members just two days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

There were even photos of Davis and her girlfriends posing with jovial-looking Democratic Reps. John Baldacci (Maine), Robert Brady (Pa.), Mike Doyle (Pa.), John Larson (Conn.) and Bill Pascrell (N.J.).

The lawmakers told HOH that they went home alone; they even sang “God Bless America” with the ladies. Pascrell said he wasn’t sweating the bad publicity.

“I’m happily married,” he said. “I told my wife about what happened. In Washington, appearances are four-fifths of the game.”

Indeed.

You’re Fired. Long before Donald Trump’s reality show, there was the tale of a young GOP staffer named George Uribe.

Some top House GOP aides were a little surprised when Uribe, spokesman for Rep. George Radanovich (R-Calif.), sent around an 18-page packet (in a glossy folder) with tips on how to be a good press secretary. After all, Uribe hadn’t been on the Hill for that long and Radanovich isn’t a fixture on the national scene.

The surprise turned to shock, however, when leadership aides noticed a prominent entry on the rather-presumptuous list of “George Uribe’s Rules of Engagement.”

“Never trust party leadership, but ALWAYS be a team player,” Uribe wrote as No. 5 on the list of 20 rules for flacks. That irritated GOP leaders.

And reporters were surprised to read this broadside: “Weekly newspapers — will print a press release verbatim.” (That one didn’t go over real well with some of the folks who cover Radanovich.)

Uribe stressed to HOH that the whole matter had been misunderstood. As to why he took a potshot at leadership, however, Uribe gave several answers over the course of a few days.

In reference to the overall brouhaha, Uribe acknowledged, “I hope to stay more low-key in the future.”

But then he broke an unwritten rule for press secretaries in trying to stop HOH from running an item: He sent HOH a bottle of 1994 Zinfandel from Radanovich Vineyard. (The Congressman is a vintner.)

The bottle came with a note on House stationery, signed by Uribe, saying, “Please don’t run the story!”

The unopened bottle of wine was returned to Radanovich’s office later that day. HOH published the item, along with a photo of the wine and the note. After the item was published, Uribe was fired.

When Interns Attack. Any discussion about gossip in 2003 has to start with one Paul Kelly Tripplehorn Jr., whose infamous “You Suck” e-mail to a colleague was first reported by HOH and ricocheted around the Internet.

Young Tripplehorn was pushed out of his internship in the office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) after penning a nasty e-mail to a female intern about their failed romance. The missive, which was forwarded thousands of times around the Hill during the summer lull, revealed how ugly things can get when preppy love flames out.

“I will always have more friends than you just because I don’t care about beating people and lying to get to the top,” Tripplehorn wrote in the long missive. “(You are an absolute hipocrit [sic] in everything that you do, I am not going to go into details why you are because that would be a waste of my time and yours but I can assure you if you were to ever meet yourself you would hate your twin).”

Proving once again that chivalry is dead and buried, he added to the young lady, “Good luck being miserable for the rest of your life.”

CRAIG WINNEKER

The 1990s were a time of dramatic upheaval in the institution of Congress and, as Roll Call’s Heard on the Hill columnist for most of that decade, I like to think I played at least some small role on the Capitol stage. So, after all these years and from my new home on a different continent, I feel I can finally say this: Sorry!

I’m kidding, mostly, but not about the transition part. When I started writing HOH, in April 1990, Congress was still populated with plenty of endearingly crusty characters from the Mesozoic era of American politics, when — if we’re to believe the quaint legend — Democrats and Republicans got along. In our current era of vituperation and character assassination, this was what is now referred to nostalgically as the Good Old Days.

Members from both sides of the aisle would, after a long day of political bobbing and weaving, gather in some allegedly larger-than-life committee chairman’s office for bipartisan bourbon-and-branches and back-slapping — and we were all supposed to feel good about it. Who cared whether their deal-making was helping or hurting the public weal? Hell, who even knew?

By the end of the decade we’d already had the “Contract with America,” the government shutdown, a slew of ethics scandals and the impeachment of a president. We saw the earliest sprouting of the Congressional Pod People who now seem to dominate the legislative branch.

I wrote HOH in a more innocent time, a time when one could make a name as a gossip columnist without frequent and cleverly worded references to sodomy or reliance on unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo — although it certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying.

Going through back issues of Roll Call to write this article has reminded me of what it was like to grow up, professionally speaking, on Capitol Hill. I was there from the age of 21 to 35, and I’ve probably never had more fun in a job or had better colleagues than when I worked at Roll Call.

Where else could we churn out such headlines as “Staffer Fired, Then Murdered” or “Furnishings Chief Quits Abruptly” or, in our version of Dewey Defeats Truman, from the 1991 leadership battle between Reps. David Bonior and Steny Hoyer, “Whip Contest Too Close to Call” (Bonior won by 51 votes)? We used to joke that the ultimate Roll Call headline would be, “Capitol Destroyed by Bomb; Massive Subcommittee Shuffle Ahead.” As I say, it was a more innocent time.

Reading the old papers also brings back memories of a lot of nice folks I dealt with, sources who I’m sure wouldn’t mind being identified at this late date. Indulge my giving a shout out to a few of them: Dan Nichols, the unflappable and unfailingly helpful spokesman for the Capitol Police during the entire time I wrote HOH — if he had ever told me half of what he knows I would have a Pulitzer; Ari Fleischer, who long before he became a poker-faced White House press secretary was a plugged-in staffer for Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and fount of good HOH items (he once called to tell me his boss had flicked a cigarette butt into the wastebasket and nearly burned down the Senate, but I wasn’t allowed to name the boss or the way the fire started); John Edgell, who specialized in working for kooky Members like Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and then-Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) and now sells Arnold Schwarzenegger dolls, and who is going to freak that I’ve outed him as a source; Donald Ritchie, of the Senate Historian’s Office, who was always happy to provide some background context or archaic anecdote; and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who always returned phone calls, even if he spoke so fast it was hard to get his quotes right.

There are dozens more, of course, and if I’ve left you out, I apologize (or, more likely, you’re welcome).

Then there were the less-than-helpful folks, the Pete Starks and Adam Clymers of the world, who despite their best efforts provided some juicy copy over the years. Their mean spirit and lack of any discernible sense of humor only prodded me to go after them more.

I sense from reading current issues of Roll Call that things have gotten ugly on Capitol Hill. Some lament this. But I’m not one to pine for the good ol’ boy days of the late Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-Texas) or then-House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.). I don’t necessarily confuse bipartisan political tradition with effective legislating or healthy democracy.

In those days, when the fix was in, there was nothing to be done about it. At least now some blogger can raise a stink, generate a million fake e-mails, get Rush Limbaugh on the case and end up renaming an airport or something. Er, maybe I’ll take that bourbon-and-branch, after all.

Seriously, be thankful for what you’ve got: a semi-vigorous political discourse. I have been living for the last five years in Brussels, which is similar to Washington, D.C., in many ways except more people in Belgium speak English.

I’ve had some experience writing political gossip for a Brussels audience, in Entre Nous, European Voice newspaper’s version of HOH, and it just doesn’t compare. People here are too damned serious about advancing The European Project to bother with senses of humour (sorry, humor). Another problem: Nothing much happens in the EU. Nearly every news story starts with “plans are being put forward” or “a Green Paper is being drafted on the proposed Directive.” How it makes me long for former Rep. Bob Dornan (R-Calif.).

Still, there are flashes of hope. One recent item in Entre Nous (which I no longer write) was headlined: “Catering Strike Lingers as Mystery Budgie is Found.”

Brussels may finally be catching Potomac Fever.

1990
It’s at Least a Two-Stroke Penalty. While playing golf at a Winnsboro, S.C., country club, Clyde Johns, the father-in-law of then-Rep. Robin Tallon (D-S.C.), shot his best friend Greg Gaddy between the eyes with a .22 pistol, according to local police reports. Johns and Gaddy had apparently gotten into an argument over a $10 bet when they came to blows. Local officials said Johns went to his car and returned with the pistol.

“We play a tough game of golf down here,” said a police spokesman.

Proof That Drinking Salt Water Is Bad for You. Upon hearing of the untimely death of Muppet creator Jim Henson, several Utah residents called the Ogden office of Rep. Jim Hansen (R) to express their condolences.

Huff Daddy. New York Rep. Major Owens (D) was so angry when conservative Rep. William Dannemeyer (R-Calif.) compared Nelson Mandela to H. Rap Brown and Willie Horton that he entered the following original rap song into the Congressional Record:

“Fascist go home!/ For you the House chamber/ Is nowhere to roam/ Let’s put all Nazis to bed/ Let’s make Hitler real dead/ Go tell the headline-hunting scavenger/ That Willie Horton is more like his mama!”

1991
The Numbers Must Have Improved Since Then …
Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein had good news for Democrats at their annual issues conference in Leesburg, Va. Democrats had seen a host of polls showing them in low public esteem because of their less than strong support for the Gulf war.

“There’s a new poll out today that you probably haven’t seen yet,” Ornstein said. “By a 37-to-21 margin, the rest undecided, the American public believes, that on a whole host of issues, the Democratic Party is preferable to the Ba’ath Party. You also beat out the Basra Shiite Party.”

That Dog Won’t Hunt (Anymore). The annual hunting trips organized by ex-Rep. Beryl Anthony (D-Ark.) were legendary, but none could ever live up to the 1991 outing.

Then-Rep. Frank Guarini (D-N.J.), who served on the Ways and Means Committee with Anthony, went along for the trip, and before it was over he had accidentally shot the hunting dog.

A spokesman for the Congressman said he had contacted the dog, “who said he could neither confirm nor deny the incident, but said he’s doing very well.”

Brain of Newt. Then-House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) was so interested in the endless procession of speakers at the annual GOP Issues Conference in Princeton that he spent a lot of his time doodling.

After one of the seminars, a reporter purloined Gingrich’s spontaneous artwork and distributed copies to just about everyone. Gingrich’s motif is criss-crossing lines inside of squares — definitely left-brained. He even had a smiley-face covered up with criss-crossing lines, and this mysterious message: “Clean, cheap service.”

Contingency Planning. The mid-year Clerk of the House report listed a disbursement to a Scranton, Pa., jeweler for 500 lapel pins for Members. Also purchased were 550 spouse pins.

1992
It’s a Smelly Job, But Someone’s Got to Do It
. Something stank all year long at the Federal Election Commission, and it wasn’t just the political action committee records.

It was the drainage system, which clogged up no fewer than three times, beginning in January, and forced several closures of the public records office due to an overwhelming stench and some damage to the carpeting.

The culprit: backed-up grease from the cooking grills of the Hard Rock Cafe, located next door to the FEC.

Can I Get This Etched in Stone? From the prayer book of Senate Chaplain Richard Halverson, delivered on Feb. 26:

“God of truth and light, Apostle James vividly describes the destructive nature of words, spoken and written. Having been uttered or printed, they cannot be retracted. Thank you, Lord, for a free press, for men and women dedicated to get the facts and keep the people informed. Thank you for their untiring effort and faithful commitment to their mandate.

“But gracious Father, investigative reporting seems epidemic in an election year — its primary objective to defame political candidates. Seeking their own reputation, they destroy another’s as they search relentlessly, microscopically for some ancient skeleton in a person’s life. Eternal God, help these self-appointed ‘vacuum-cleaner journalists’ to discover how unproductive and divisive their efforts are.”

1993
Unintended Consequence
. Then-Sen. Malcolm Wallop (R-Wyo.) had them rolling in the aisles at a June meeting of the Senate Ethics Study Commission when he described a tricky situation faced by his top aide in regard to tough rules on accepting gifts and free meals from lobbyists.

Said Wallop: “My chief of staff had a courtier who was madly pursuing her and who was also a lobbyist, and she wanted to know if she could have dinner with him, since he was a lobbyist. And the ruling was, yes, she could have dinner with him — so long as she spent the night.”

I Guess You Do Mind if I Smoke. The war over the right to smoke in the Capitol got really ugly when House Judiciary Chairman Jack Brooks (D-Texas), who liked his cigars, knocked skulls with Rep. Jim Traficant (D-Ohio), who didn’t like tobacco products of any kind.

Brooks ran into Traficant and dared him to “just try to get this cigar away from me.”

Traficant responded: “Mr. Chairman, I’m going to take that cigar, and turn it into a suppository.”

Health Reform, Indeed. Be sure to read the fine print on your health insurance form. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield price sheet that was circulated to federal workers listed the following under “What is not covered” by the dental plan: “the teeth.”

This Guy Was Onto Something. Debate was so raucous on the House legislative appropriations bill in mid-June that one spectator decided he would try to help restore order. After a vote on one of the amendments, the presiding officer, Rep. Patsy Mink (D-Hawaii), couldn’t get Members to settle down, no matter how many times she banged the gavel.

Finally, a man in the gallery stood up and shouted, “Shuuuut up!”

Isn’t This How He Got Into Trouble in the First Place? Former House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Texas) was signing copies of his new book, “Worth It All,” at Trover Shop in early November when a man approached him and said he was a longtime supporter. The man said he just wanted to pay his respects but didn’t have enough money to buy the Speaker’s book.

Wright, without hesitation, pulled out his wallet, walked up to the cash register, paid $25 for his own book, signed it, and gave it to the man.

1994
Wardrobe Malfunction
. Then-Sen. Howell Heflin (D-Ala.) caused a ruckus in the Senators’ Dining Room when, during a chat with two reporters, he reached into his pocket for a handkerchief and instead pulled out a pair of women’s panties.

Asked to explain his bizarre prestidigitation, Heflin said he mistakenly picked up a pair of his wife’s white panties and put them in his pocket while rushing to work.

Heflin said it wouldn’t happen again. “I’m going to start buying colored handkerchiefs.”

Not So Fast. Heads turned at Rep. Gary Ackerman’s (D-N.Y.) March fundraiser — in which he transported an entire Queens deli to the Hill — at the sight of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) noshing on noodle kugel.

That’s because Hillites were under the impression that Nadler was one of 19 Members fasting along with Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio) to publicize the hunger issue. Turns out Nadler had never agreed to participate in the fast, even though his name was on a news release issued by Hall’s office. Hall apologized to Nadler for the screw-up.

Unfortunate Metaphor Dept. The May debate on the assault weapons ban included plenty of boasts about Members’ experiences with high-powered weapons, but nobody outdid Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.).

Said the Congressman: “I have flown an F-14 over this Capitol with a 20-millimeter gun that could shoot 6,000 rounds a minute. I could disintegrate this hall in a half-second burst. Yet the gentleman from New York (Democratic Rep. Charles Schumer) would tell me that I cannot carry a ten-shot .22.”

Pulse of the Nation. One of the Members who honchoed the assault weapons ban got an interesting piece of mail in June from someone who clearly didn’t support that Member’s position on the issue.

The sender, who owns a gun shop in Texas, sent a Ziploc bag filled with horse manure, and a little note: “Enclosed is some horses–t to help replace some of the tons you’ve been putting out about gun control.”

Said an aide to the Member, “We’ve sent a lot of this out. This is the first time we’ve ever gotten any back.”

Elective Surgery. On a July appearance on a radio talk show in Little Rock, freshman Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.) was asked about the subject of malpractice lawsuits and whether they may lead doctors to perform unnecessary procedures. Said Dickey, “They might take you in there and perform a C-SPAN even though you don’t need it.”

1995
Can You Blame Him
? A news release announcing former House Speaker Tom Foley’s (D-Wash.) acceptance of a partnership in the law firm Akin, Gump listed a phone number in Barbados for reporters seeking comment from the man himself.

Vintage Spam. This was the year that Congress merged onto the Information Superhighway, and it didn’t take long for glitches to develop. When freshman Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) was testing his office e-mail system, he accidentally sent several other Members the following message: “Behold I am the Lord, the God of all flesh — Is anything to (sic) difficult for me? Jer 33:27.”

Stark Raving. After a meeting of the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) shocked onlookers when he called Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) a “whore” for the insurance industry. In an interview with HOH, Stark vehemently denied ever making the comment, despite several eyewitnesses and complaints from Members of both parties. Stark eventually apologized to Johnson for making the remark, which apparently he did make, after all.

Faith-Based Initiative. Republican privatization efforts had Hill support workers turning to religion in March, when a special “Praying for Your Job” meeting was held in the Cannon Building.

“Everyone is welcome to come and learn how to pray for their jobs,” read a flier touting the meeting. “Almost everything we have been hearing about our jobs over the last couple of months has been negative. What does God have to say about our jobs? Come to this prayer meeting and hear what God has to say about our jobs, and learn how to pray in faith believing for your job.”

DeLayed Reaction. Most Members want to clean up their remarks in the Congressional Record to make them less controversial. Not House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who in September had the folks at the Record fix a speech he’d made in July in which he compared the Environmental Protection Agency to the Gestapo.

DeLay wanted the Nazi reference, which had been left out of the Record (his prepared remarks were printed instead of the words he actually spoke), put back in.

1996
Wrong Metaphor
. One of the more colorful quotes in the late summer debate on the Defense of Marriage Act came from its sponsor, Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), who claimed that “the flames of hedonism, the flames of narcissism, the flames of self-centered morality are licking at the very foundations of our society, the family unit.”

Interesting choice of words for a man who has taken a lot of heat for once “licking” whipped cream off a woman’s chest at a charity fundraiser.

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up. The things Members do to help constituents. Consider the following letter from Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) to Agriculture Department official P. Scott Shearer:

“Dear Mr. Shearer: I am writing to you on behalf of Mr. R. Miles Handy II, President, Oink-Oink Inc., 15526 Dale, Detroit, MI 48223.

“According to Mr. Handy, The United States Department of Agriculture was allowing Oink-Oink to purchase pork penises for use as a pet treat. They were purchasing the raw product from Iowa Packing Company. After several months of doing so, the USDA began to ‘dye the raw penises green.’ As a result of this, Oink-Oink Inc. is unable to use them because of this discoloration.

“I would greatly appreciate your comment on this situation.”

1997
Sign of Things to Come
. Taking first prize for this year’s best April Fools’ joke on Capitol Hill was the Wright Patman Congressional Federal Credit Union. On its side-by-side ATMs in the Longworth Building, credit union officials affixed new signs: One read “Republicans Only” and the other, “Democrats Only.”

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