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Expert Witness

Rep. William Jefferson seems like the perfect guy to headline a panel discussion on federal contracting. After all, the Louisiana Democrat knows a thing or two — or 90,000 — about them. Jefferson is at the center of a federal corruption probe surrounding allegations that he accepted bribes (in which he took the cold-hard-cash maxim literally, hiding $90,000 in his freezer) in exchange for promising to help grease the wheels on contracts related to deals in African countries. [IMGCAP(1)]

He’ll be heading up the “Recovery for Whom, by Whom?” panel that will focus on minority contracting in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina this Friday at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual legislative conference. His staff says Jefferson’s other areas of expertise make him a natural choice for the panel. “The main reason the office wanted to put on this forum is because of the importance of spurring economic development” following Hurricane Katrina, said Jefferson spokeswoman Ashley Wilson. The panel also includes Jefferson supporters such as New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Louisiana state Rep. Juan LaFonta, Harry Alford of the Black Chamber of Commerce and Chris Cooper, a New Orleans contractor.

When HOH politely inquired whether Jefferson’s ongoing legal woes could distract from their overall message, Wilson quite naturally attempted to accentuate the positive. “We just always continue to focus on the message of recovery,” she said.

Let’s Play “Name That Sex Toy.” Hot tubs. Hookers. Bribery. Each time we think the case of imprisoned former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) couldn’t get any more tawdry, it does. In the latest seamy twist to the already kinky scandal, the man alleged to have laundered Cunningham’s dirty money was found to be hiding the evidence by stashing it along with what court documents describe as “a stash of personal entertainment materials and paraphernalia.” first reported that John Michael, who’s accused, among other things, of doctoring Cunningham’s mortgage records, kept the Cunningham documents alongside some rather embarrassing — but so far undisclosed — items, according to the court filings. Prosecutors say in the papers that “Michael has expressed extreme embarrassment” over them and that “their nature objectively supports his perspective.” Meaning, of course, that even the feds agree that he was hiding some seriously kinky stuff. Prosecutors want to use the details of the embarrassing stash to show just how damning the Cunningham documents themselves are. Their logic: The fact that he kept the documents in the same spot as his unmentionables means that Michael considered them to be just as potentially shameful.

Here’s HOH’s counsel, which she’s offering for free, having never actually been to law school: Just fess up as to what your stash includes, because nothing’s as dirty as our imagination.

Howdy, Coach. HOH spies were ducking and covering Tuesday, fearing flying chairs after spotting legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight around the Capitol complex.

The famously hot-tempered Knight, who coaches for Texas Tech, was on his best behavior, we hear, attending a luncheon in the Rayburn House Office Building with the entire Texas delegation and representatives of the Texas Tech system.

Byrd Gets Framed. Only a guy like Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) gets the distinction of calling Old Bulls like Sens. John Warner (R-Va.) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) “young man.” The young men in question were on hand Tuesday to celebrate the unveiling of Byrd’s official portrait in a ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber that was so full of reminiscing and gentle ribbing that it felt like a roast.

Former Senate leaders Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) returned to their old stomping grounds to pay homage to the Senate’s oldest Member and the chamber’s longest-serving Member in history. Speaking during the ceremony, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) joked that Byrd’s record number of votes included “the votes he cast in the Roman Senate.”

The portrait depicts Byrd and what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the three pillars of Byrd’s strength: a Bible in his right hand, a copy of the Constitution in his left and a framed photo of his beloved late wife, Erma, in the backdrop.

Drink Up(scale). Any fool can make a gin and tonic. But it apparently takes a “mixologist” to whip up some of the concoctions that the National Restaurant Association plans to serve Members of Congress and thirsty staffers tonight. The group has fancied up its annual Congressional reception, at 6 p.m. in the Cannon Caucus Room, by featuring mixologists, which in laymen’s terms means bartenders, to sling drinks for the well-heeled crowd.

While the event will feature fruity concoctions like a Moroccan Delight — Van Gogh Mango Vodka, mango liquor, and orange and white cranberry juices — courtesy of Mie N Yu’s Chris Kelley and a Pear-Gyn Rug from Nage’s Galen Johnson, HOH’s favorite cocktail comes from the International Spy Museum’s signature drink, “The Zola, aka: The White Knight.” The Turi Vodka and Cointreau drink is “dedicated to the man who stood up in defense of an accused spy.” That’s our idea of a drink with a cause.

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