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Grist for Mills

That giant sucking sound heard around town Friday was the combined gasp of just about every member of the Capitol Hill press corps and plenty of House staffers upon hearing that wise-cracking Fox News producer Jim Mills was joining the nascent presidential campaign of former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.). [IMGCAP(1)]

Mills frequently used humor to entertain aides, Members and fellow reporters — and occasionally, to cut through the absurdity of official Washington, D.C. Though he sometimes crossed swords with the folks he covered, just about everyone, from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to Mills’ barber, have their favorite Mills moments.

A few greatest hits:

• Mills forever will be memorialized in the oft-played B-roll footage of embattled then-Rep. Gary Condit (D-Calif.) outside the Capitol. He’s the guy (in typical Mills mode) chasing Condit.

• Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), irritated by Mills’ questions, once called him a “smartass.”

• Once, during a supposedly closed session of the House, Mills realized the Fox news feed from the floor was still live, and he listened in (settle down, folks, it wasn’t classified, just dishy).

• He’s a stalker, but apparently a welcome one. “The Speaker told me that her trips to the floor just won’t be the same without Mills stalking her in Stat Hall,” says Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly, referring to Mills’ favorite hangout in Statuary Hall.

Mills himself shared fond memories of his times on the Hill, from coming aboard as the first “embedded” C-SPAN producer on the Hill in the early 1990s, a position he says he had to beg Brian Lamb to give him. “He gave me the job just to shut me up and get me out of the building,” Mills recalls.

He joined Fox in 1996, when his duties included more than just keeping tabs on lawmakers. Mills remembers having to scrape ice himself from the satellite dish on the Hill, so people in the Capitol could get the signal, and he would clandestinely turn Hill television sets to FNC.

And as pugnacious a questioner as he was as a reporter, we’re looking forward to seeing Mills deal with scribes’ nosy queries once he’s Thompson’s flack.

Karma’s a … well, it’s something.

Colbert in the House. Fake newsguy Stephen Colbert was making the rounds in Washington on Friday, collecting signatures in the Capitol and at the White House. Not for a petition or a letter, but for the cast encasing his recently broken wrist.

Colbert, the host of the Comedy Central show “The Colbert Report,” was spotted hanging out in Statuary Hall on Friday morning, asking Members to sign a large cast he was sporting around his left wrist.

Pelosi obliged and signed the cast, a spokesman reveals, but cheekily called the comedian a “bone-coddling crybaby.” Ouch! Turns out, the gentlewoman from California was simply repeating a line Colbert used to describe cast-wearers on his show the night before.

Later in the day, a Roll Call reporter caught up with Colbert, who was leaving the White House after another signature-collecting mission. He seemed disappointed that he didn’t get President Bush’s penmanship to add to the collection. “He’s not here,” Colbert said in a lamenting tone, but he proudly showed the reporter Pelosi’s John Hancock.

Suit Yourself. Rep. Gary Miller wants HOH readers to know that he does not, in fact, wear slippers. Or sandals. Doesn’t even own a pair, the California Republican tells us.

HOH reported last week that one of our spies spotted Miller coming to the House floor for a vote last Monday wearing a Hawaiian shirt, linen pants and slippers. Miller called HOH to correct the record: It was a nice, striped Tommy Bahama shirt (a $150 item, he says), black silk pants (they don’t wrinkle) and tasseled loafers (they’re comfortable).

It’s a traveling ensemble that’s relaxed, yet still stylish, he says, even if it wasn’t the dress suit he usually wears while on the job. Miller had arrived directly from the airport, much later than he expected since his early morning flight was canceled, leaving him no time to change.

“I like nice clothes,” he tells HOH, fearing that the report of him wearing casual duds might besmirch his reputation as a guy who knows how to dress for the occasion.

And when Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), who was presiding over the chamber at the time, noted that Members should abide by a dress code on the floor that includes jackets and ties for men, Miller insists she wasn’t referring to him, since he darted onto the floor to vote before retreating to the Speaker’s Lobby. She was responding to another improperly dressed Member who lingered on the floor, Miller says, although he couldn’t tell who the culprit was.

In her original report, HOH described Miller’s outfit as one better suited to a “backyard cookout than the House chamber,” and she’s happy to stand corrected. Make that “a very nice backyard cookout,” one that’s more microbrews and T-bones than Budweiser and wieners.

Kerry’s Dog Fight. The ranks of the Anti-Michael Vick Caucus are growing. While the Atlanta Falcons superstar certainly has his hands full with his notorious dog-fighting legal imbroglio, now he’s facing an entirely different beast: Congress.

Proud papa of three miniature schnauzers, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D) is calling on his colleagues to stand against Vick and his “Bad Newz Kennel” types by introducing a dog-fighting ban that, if passed, would up the ante against dog-fighters everywhere.

Although it’s a bit of a one-sided fight in Washington, Kerry’s quest against Vick didn’t stop on the Senate floor. Kerry even went so far as to let NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell know, in a phone conversation, that he supports Vick’s NFL suspension.

Gallows Humor. Nothing like a good old-fashioned execution joke to lighten up the mood, that’s what HOH has always said.

A Senate markup last week got a dose of dark humor, courtesy of Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), who riffed on the hilarious tendency of the Chinese to off their public officials. During debate over giving the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco, Enzi noted that China had recently done some regulating of its own in the area of food safety.

According to an HOH spy, nervous laughter slowly spread across the room as spectators realized that Enzi was referring to the Chinese government’s recent execution of its food and drug minister on corruption charges. “I think we’re a little easier on our nominations, but they’re a little tougher on oversight,” he said.

Think Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is relieved to hear that?

Daddy’s Little Lobbyists. HOH has long had her suspicions, but here’s proof that kids really do run the world.

Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) is pressing for more funding to help sea turtles, because he was convinced by some powerful lobbyists — his 10- and 13-year-old daughters. Cardoza said on the House floor on Thursday that his daughters Elaina and Brittany had “encouraged” him to work on the issue. “One knows we have to abide by our children because they usually have the right take on what is right in this world,” Cardoza said.

Alright, alright, kids, we’ll give you the sea turtles. But we are totally drawing a line on that proposed My Little Pony Commission.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

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