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Earplugs-Optional Fundraiser

Correction Appended

The only thing harder to listen to than an early-in-the- season episode of “American Idol” might be the audition episode for said televised talent contest. Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), though, is asking folks to cough up as much as a cool grand to watch the “American Idol” auditions that were taped in his district.

[IMGCAP(1)]Terry is hosting a fundraiser at the Capitol Hill Club on Jan. 29, which not coincidentally is both Terry’s birthday and the day that the Omaha auditions are broadcast nationally. The invitation asks individuals to pay $500 and political action committees $1,000 for the privilege of joining Terry, Simon, Paula and the gang (that would be judges Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, natch) to celebrate the Congressman’s birthday and view the broadcast.

Terry tells HOH that although he’s only caught the program a few times, his kids are fans. “I think it will be fun,” he says, although he adds that he’s aware of the cringe-inducing performances such auditions usually feature.

The Omaha auditions for American Idol were held last August at the city’s Qwest Center. And though the city might be the butt of hick jokes featuring the oh-so-urbane Idol judges in the land of corn fields, Terry says he’s hopeful the show will cast the city in a positive light.

And of the “freaks” who typically howl their way through auditions, Terry deadpans: “I’m sure those will be people from outside my district.”

Would-be donors looking for a better musical experience might instead want to think about attending the Feb. 28 fundraiser that Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) is hosting. The entertainment? Veteran rock act Bon Jovi, performing at the Verizon Center.

To borrow some lyrics from Mr. Bon Jovi himself, that’s how to give musical fundraising a good name.

Bang-Up Welcome. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) might have been wishing for the wide-open spaces in his home state on Tuesday when he experienced one of the all-too-common woes of the Washington grind: the fender bender. On Tuesday, the first day the Senate was in session after the holiday break, the Senator was the passenger in a car involved in a minor accident on Second Street Northeast.

A Cornyn aide was driving the Senator, and a Capitol Police spokeswoman said the incident resulted in only “minor property damage.” No other details, including who was in the other car and who was at fault, were available.

Fortunately, no one was injured.

But the afternoon didn’t get much better for Cornyn, who at the time of the accident was on his way to the rotunda in the Russell Senate Office Building for an interview with Fox Business Network (he completed the trip on foot). After a break in the interview, the anchor announced that they would go back to “Ben Nelson, from the great state of Nebraska.”

Cornyn corrected her, politely, of course.

After the day’s misadventures, things can only be looking up, said Cornyn spokesman Brian Walsh when HOH reached him for comment. “Provided the Democrats are truly serious about working with Republicans to stimulate the economy and put more money back into the pockets of hardworking Americans, Sen. Cornyn expects everything to be uphill from here on out,” Walsh said.

One bright spot in an otherwise downer of a day: Despite having been in an accident only moments earlier, Cornyn looked unruffled during the Fox interview, with nary a silver hair out of place.

‘The Body’ for Prez? With action star Chuck Norris becoming an omnipresence on Mike Huckabee’s campaign and former bodybuilder turned California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) choosing to opt out of the endorsement game entirely, HOH got to thinking about what other musclemen might be entering the presidential fray.

Retired professional wrestler and former Independent Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura? He’s mum — for the moment. Ventura’s publicist wouldn’t make “The Body” available for an interview with HOH until the upcoming press junket for his book “Don’t Start the Revolution Without Me!” in April. But it looks like Ventura may be toying with a run of his own.

The end of his book, of which The Associated Press got an advance copy, details a fictionalized Ventura presidential bid in which the former guv mounts an insurgent campaign with environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr. as a running mate in the 2008 election. While Ventura kicks off his campaign at a Wrestlemania event, his campaign quickly takes a turn for the worse after he is shot by a Cuban exile upset with the U.S. trade embargo, according to the AP.

If Ventura, indeed, takes a run at higher office, he may just revert back to his old campaign slogan: “Don’t vote for politics as usual.”

Sounds like he’d fit right in among the current crop of contenders.

It’s No Bourbon Street. Penn Quarter will have to do for Big Easy revelers who, in true Mardi Gras spirit, are kicking off the three-day D.C. Mardi Gras a day early with a “Let the World Be Your Oyster Reception” at 6 p.m. tonight. Party organizers, which include the Louisiana Oyster Task Force, Shell Oil and Tabasco, not only shipped in more than 6,000 oysters for the fete at Acadiana restaurant, but they’ve also brought up chefs from the bayou’s best restaurants.

But not to fear, those out-of-staters have had some help complying with Congressional ethics rules, Gavin Gibbons of the National Fisheries Institute, a co-host of the event, tells HOH. “All food will be served in sample or appetizer-size portions in accordance with House and Senate ethics guidelines,” Gibbons says. “And as hard as it may be with Oysters Rockefeller on the menu, we will be following the toothpick rule.”

The D.C. Mardi Gras festivities will continue with a whirlwind of parties and galas Thursday through Saturday. The event is sponsored by the nonprofit Mystic Krewe, which is headed this year by Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.), the Krewe’s captain.

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Correction: Jan. 24, 2008

The column misstated the date of Rep. Lee Terry’s (R-Neb.) fundraiser. It is Jan. 29.

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