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Expert Witness

Correction Appended

It’s not often that HOH finds amusement in a hearing notice, but the announcement of the House Judiciary Committee’s field hearing Tuesday in New Orleans couldn’t help but catch our eye. [IMGCAP(1)]

The hearing was aimed at examining Hurricane Katrina’s impact on “crime, terrorism, and homeland security” in the storm-battered area. Testifying on the first panel was none other than Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), who shares representation of the Big Easy and therefore knows a thing or two about the city. And one could say that he’s also somewhat of an expert on law enforcement, since he’s currently the subject of a federal bribery probe after an FBI sting operation uncovered $90,000 in a freezer in his home.

The mirthful folks at the National Republican Congressional Committee had a field day with the announcement themselves, accusing Democrats on the Judiciary Committee of “ignoring 90,000 reasons as to why William Jefferson might not be the ideal witness to testify on the issue of crime at today’s field hearing in New Orleans.”

A Democratic Judiciary staffer sniffed that Jefferson wasn’t exactly a witness, since he didn’t so much testify as “give welcoming remarks.”

The committee identified him and others on the first panel as witnesses “because it was easier to list them that way,” the staffer said. “It’s common courtesy to invite the Member whose Congressional district you’re visiting in a field hearing.” (Louisiana GOP Rep. Bobby Jindal also was invited, but he couldn’t attend because of a scheduling conflict, the staffer said.)

Nevertheless, whether he was a witness or welcomer, Jefferson shared his thoughts with the committee about the city’s crime problems.

New BFFs. The Tuesday face-off between former Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) was tragically collegial and revealed that the two have more in common than one might think — including literary tastes.

Despite the sharp differences between the two on just about any issue you can think of — including global warming, the topic of the debate — there was no name-calling, no snarkiness and plenty of chumminess at the event, which was sponsored by John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, the Brookings Institution and the Cato Institute.

Former Speaker Gingrich even took the opportunity to hawk the Massachusetts Senator’s new book, “This Moment on Earth: Today’s New Environmentalists and Their Vision for the Future,” holding it up at least twice during the event. (Now there’s a publicity shot for Kerry!)

“I would agree with about 60 percent of this book,” Gingrich told the audience.

“We loved Speaker Gingrich’s enthusiasm for the book and will be sending him a complimentary copy immediately,” a Kerry staffer enthused.

We wonder if Kerry will return the favor and act as pitchman when Gingrich debuts his own green-themed tome, “A Contract with the Earth,” which is due out later this year.

And who knows, if he doesn’t run for president, maybe Gingrich has a career as a book publicist.

Integrity Matters. Alleged Washington, D.C., madam Jeane Palfrey is a fan of ABC and of newsman Brian Ross, her attorney tells HOH, which is why she handed the news organization her records — documents that just might include the names of some D.C. bigwigs.

“Jeane chose ABC for their reputation and integrity, and Brian Ross in particular for those same reasons,” her attorney told HOH.

Well-placed Washington types might want to tune in to the Alphabet Network to find out what kind of dirt Palfrey and her records reveal. The accused head of a high-price call girl ring — which Palfrey contends was a perfectly legal escort service with clients who included Washington power players — will be featured on the May 20 episode of ABC’s “20/20.”

Fries With the Press Release? There’s not much about Rep. Duncan Hunter’s (R-Calif.) run for president that’s out of a slick Washington playbook. So his hire of a longtime buddy, restaurateur Roy Tyler, as his communications director comes as no surprise.

Tyler’s résumé hardly reads like that of most top campaign press folks’ — instead of flacking, he was slinging salsa as the owner of Tyler’s Taste of Texas restaurants in Southern California. (He met Hunter at one of the locations, which Hunter dubbed his “second office.”)

But he insisted that 38 years in the food biz has prepared him to be Hunter’s spokesman. “It’s all people skills,” Tyler said.

Working for the campaign was, as the saying goes, an opportunity he couldn’t resist. “How often in your life do you have one of your best friends run for president?” Tyler wondered.

And Tyler’s no doubt already learned something about customers that applies to political journos: They’re most content when fed something juicy.

Jamie Weinstein contributed to this report.

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Correction: April 12, 2007
“Heard on the Hill” incorrectly identified the sponsor of the debate between Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). The sponsor was the John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

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