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Band Takes Off

When you’re hot, you’re hot. And don’t Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) know it. Speaking to HOH on his way back from the 20th anniversary of Farm Aid, Peterson said his new all-Member band is in such high demand, “Right now we got more offers than we got energy.”

The band, Collin Peterson and the Second Amendments, had plenty of energy on Sunday at Farm Aid, where, at the invitation of Peterson’s old buddy, Willie Nelson, they played a rockin’ three-song set that followed giants like Neil Young, Dave Matthews, Emmylou Harris, Wilco and Nelson himself. They played “I Saw Her Standing There” by the Beatles, Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe” and closed with Mickey Gilley’s classic, “The Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time.” (So do the boys, HOH would point out.)

Like the true performer he is, Peterson was riding high from the crowd’s enthusiasm and his pal Willie’s glowing review. “He loved it,” the Democratic band leader told HOH. “He was impressed that I got four other Members that could play as well as they do.” The Second Amendments include Reps. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) on lead guitar, Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) on bass, Jon Porter (R-Nev.) on keyboards and Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.) on drums and backup vocals.

Even though they clearly all have day jobs, Peterson has big plans for the band. He said they’re going to make a CD as soon as they write some more songs. Right now they have only three originals, written by McCotter and Weldon. And they’ve memorized about a dozen songs. They need to learn a dozen more, he said, so they can start playing two-hour sets instead of one.

Peterson said he’s checked with the House ethics committee and his band is allowed to accept up to $25,000 annually for performances. Whatever they do, they’ll do it cautiously and with approval from the ethics committee, he said. “You have to be careful and not do like [former Speakers] Jim Wright and Newt Gingrich did. We’re going to be careful.”

While they fine tune at practice sessions in Peterson’s cramped office and work on making their CD, Peterson and the Second Amendments also are planning a couple of upcoming gigs. One, planned for late October in Washington, D.C., will be a benefit for New Orleans musicians who lost their instruments in Hurricane Katrina. The other will be a concert with Nelson at a local D.C. club, perhaps in February, to raise awareness about bio-diesel alternatives.

It sure is nice to be loved. “We’ve got so many requests to play now, it’s becoming problematic. We’re having to be selective,” Peterson said, ever so modestly.

Holding Hands: Poor Taste. Apparently USA Today newspaper has something against hand-holding, at least when the president of the Free World does it.

The newspaper last week refused to run an ad placed by the Alaska Wilderness League protesting the Bush administration’s oil policies. The ad depicted the much-lampooned Associated Press photo of President Bush holding hands with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah with the this text beneath it: “IN GOOD HANDS? When it comes to AMERICA’S ENERGY POLICY, the answer is NO.”

Steve Margelos, a USA Today account executive, explained in an e-mail to the organization, which was obtained by HOH, that the newspaper’s advertising department “considers the photo ‘in poor taste’ and will not allow the ad to run as is. They also didn’t see why a picture of President Bush holding hands with a Saudi Prince related to drilling for oil in Alaska. But the main issue was the photo.”

He offered to hold ad space in the paper for the Alaska Wilderness League, as long as the group could find a suitable photo to run, presumably one that didn’t show the president holding handsies with someone, for crying out loud!

But the photo WAS the ad, the way the league sees it. Brian Moore, the group’s legislative director, is fit to be tied.

“We think that it’s in poor taste for the president to base our energy policy solely on drilling for oil, whether foreign or domestic, but especially in the pristine wilderness of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” Moore told HOH. “I also find it strange that our using this photo is supposedly in poor taste. I don’t remember newspapers questioning the president’s taste when they originally ran the photo of him walking hand in hand with the Crowned Prince across his front lawn.”

Margelos did not respond to an e-mail request for comment, though he said in his note to the league that “the text of the ad was okay to run. The photo is the reason the ad was rejected.”

Still, no clue why USA Today finds the tender moment between Bush and Prince Abdullah so objectionable.

It’s A Boy! The Roll Call newsroom keeps on getting cuter and cuter.

The cuteness factor spiked to an all-time high Monday with the arrival of Conner Joseph Preston, the second child born to Roll Call Senate reporter Mark Preston and his wife, Meredith. Baby Conner was born at 10:44 a.m. Monday, tipping the scales at just under 8 lbs.

Conner was an early birthday president for sister Catherine, who will be a year old on Thursday.

Happy birthday to the wee Prestons! And congratulations to Mom and Dad.

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