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The Dog Ate My Campaign Records

When Jamie Jacob Morgan decided to take on Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) in 2002, the 26-year-old law school student figured he’d probably need all the help he could get. He enlisted his brother as treasurer and started working over his colleagues at the Oakland County, Mich., Circuit Court for campaign contributions. He got some decent press, raised $250,000 and walked away with 27 percent of the Republican primary vote. [IMGCAP(1)]

Not bad for a first go-around. But by primary day, Morgan’s campaign had already shuttered its doors. He was having some family issues and wanted to end his campaign, he wrote to Federal Election Commission in April 2003. To boot, a virus had trashed his computer and erased all of his campaign records. All he wanted to do, he said, was put the run behind him.

“Trust me, I no longer have political ambitions, and I have a new respect for those in office,” Morgan begged in a letter to FEC lawyers. “I was not as prepared as I had hoped.”

A young kid trying to kick-start his political career when most his age are still working off college hangovers? Of course, says HOH. Cut the kid some slack!

That is, if he hadn’t made the whole thing up. In a rare move Tuesday, the FEC said it was fining Morgan $60,000 for “willfully and knowingly” lying about more or less every aspect of his campaign’s finances.

In the deal, Morgan agreed that he fudged one report to claim he had raised $200,000, when he really only took in $45,000. Morgan also reported to the agency that he had paid out $253,666 in campaign cash; he later admitted all but roughly $60,000 was “wholly fictitious.”

And, like some kids his age, who do you think picked up the tab? Of the $98,850 that his campaign actually did receive, $62,000 came from his father, Jerry Morgan.

Timing Is Everything. Members of the Capitol Hill press corps practically had whiplash from trying to follow Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) as he performed a will-he-or-won’t-he dance over filing articles of impeachment against Vice President Cheney.

Kucinich was slated to present the articles, alleging a combo platter of war-related offenses, during a noon press conference on Tuesday. But after news got out about Cheney’s visit to an area hospital Tuesday morning, Kucinich put off the event indefinitely. No good deed, as they say, goes unpunished.

Although Kucinich didn’t want to appear as if he were picking on the veep when he was down, Cheney himself (looking as robust as ever) appeared in the Capitol following the Senate’s Tuesday party luncheons and proceeded to tear into Democrats.

Kucinich then apparently decided to give up the merciful act and rescheduled his announcement for 5 p.m.

With all the back-and-forth, media types were grousing about having to turn on a dime, complaining that the Kucinich camp was slow in notifying people of the changes — although Kucinich personally handed out announcements of the scheduling change (they bore the dubious promotion line “Distributed by Congressman Dennis Kucinich”).

Plenty of reporters showed up for the noon event only to find out, amid lots of confusion, that it had been scrapped.

Meanwhile, House Democratic leaders stayed mum about enfant terrible Kucinich’s gambit. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) demurred that it was now the House Judiciary Committee’s issue to deal with, and when pressed, leaned on platitudes. “Some time ago Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi (D-Calif.) indicated that what we need to do is focus on the substance of the issues at hand, and that’s what we’re going to do,” he added.

Reporters might agree, just as soon as they figure out exactly what those issues are.

No Cheap Dates. Those looking to land dates among Capitol Hill’s staff class can stop trolling the Dirksen cafeteria — but they might have to pony up some serious bucks instead.

At a charity “date auction” tonight at Dupont Circle club Play Lounge, date-seekers can bid on an evening in the company of either of two Hill lovelies — and convince themselves that it’s all in the name of philanthropy, since the proceeds go to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Among the “items” on the auction block are Joan Kato, a former scheduler/legislative assistant to Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and soon-to-be outreach coordinator for the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), and Carol Danko, a legislative assistant to Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.).

The two were roped into the event, which is being co-sponsored by dating service Dinner at 8, by organizer and friend Noah Cuttler, the director of regulatory affairs for the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association. Cuttler, who says he resorted to “serious blackmail” to find candidates willing to auction themselves away, is trying to raise $150,000 between April 12 and June 15 as part of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “Man of the Year” contest. Cuttler expects tonight’s event to raise $10,000, with dates fetching as much as $500.

Which is, of course, way more than the entrée special in Dirksen, but, hey, at least it’s a sure thing.

The Date Hearing of the Year. Count HOH as officially not surprised at the sheer number of viewers who checked out online the Senate Judiciary Committee’s char-grilling of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales last week. According to C-SPAN, “Gonzales: the Hearing” garnered more than a quarter of a million live video and audio streams, shattering previous C-SPAN records. After all, the session in which the attorney general faced Congressional critics from both sides of the aisle over his firing of federal prosecutors wasn’t just for political nerds. The hearing had it all — Pathos! Drama! Intrigue!

And HOH couldn’t help but notice that the 252,804 people checking out the hearing (and staying tuned in for an average of 51 minutes) were doing so during regular business hours. After all, it’s way easier to explain to the boss why you’re watching C-SPAN than “American Idol” replays.

Matthew Murray contributed to this report.

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