Hey Buddy, Can You Spare a Jet?

Posted January 25, 2008 at 6:34pm

What’s a guy to do when he’s missed his train and he’s stuck without a ride? If he’s House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and he’s pals with a guy who has a few planes to spare, he gets an airlift.

[IMGCAP(1)]President Bush offered Boehner a plane so that the Minority Leader could stick around Washington, D.C., for the announcement of a deal with Democrats on an economic stimulus package on Thursday and still quickly join his colleagues, who were gathered at the GOP retreat in West Virginia. The rest of the Republican Members at The Greenbrier resort for the confab had far-less-posh wheels: Many took a train from Washington, and a few drove.

Boehner, though, got the presidential treatment. On Thursday afternoon, he boarded a 20-seat jet (not, alas, Air Force One), courtesy of Bush, a spokesman tells HOH. Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) also was on board, we hear.

Now that’s flying first class.

The Next In-Stall-Ment. Finally, our toe-tapping Senator, Idaho Republican Larry Craig, may be getting the TV treatment we saw coming. The plotline of Wednesday’s episode of NBC’s cops-and-courtroom drama “Law & Order” includes a closeted gay elected official and a bathroom-stall scene with some footsie action, details that couldn’t help but remind us of last summer’s affaire de Craig.

“Law & Order” and its spinoffs, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” often feature characters or plots “ripped from the headlines.” Washington has proved fodder for previous episodes inspired by Beltway dramas like the scandal that took down super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the controversy surrounding military contractors in Iraq.

When the news broke that Craig had been arrested in a men’s room in a gay-sex sting (the Senator, however, maintains he’s not gay), HOH just knew the matter would wind up on the show. We should note that ABC’s “Boston Legal” got to it first with a Craig-inspired episode. Randee Cohen, who helps run a “Law & Order” fan Web site, also saw it coming. “It was totally not surprising,” she tells HOH.

As with other scandals, the show’s writers have taken plenty of liberty with the details. In the episode, dubbed “Political Animal,” a murder victim turns out to be the lover of a “prominent political figure,” according to an NBC plot summary. The politico is cleared of the crime, and attention then turns to one of his fundraisers.

“The writers tend to combine a lot of headlines, or they make up their own,” Cohen notes, so the resemblance to the Craig story might be slim.

Still, HOH is sitting on a supply of popcorn.

Spiced-Up Fundraising. Any Member of Congress can get a lobbyist to throw down some dough for a U2 or Bono fundraiser, but it takes a certain baby-faced Florida Republican with the courage to take on the Spice Girls. Rep. Ric Keller is doing just that.

The four-term Congressman sent out a fundraising pitch for an event at the Spice Girls’ reunion tour last week, hoping that the “Return of the Spice Girls World Tour” concert, slated for Feb. 21 at the Verizon Center, will draw big bucks. Attendees, who may be hoping to catch a glimpse of Victoria Beckham’s soccer-star hubby David Beckham, as much as they want to hear the British group rock out to some of their favorite oldies, will have to shell out a cool $1,500 for two tickets and $1,000 for a single ticket.

The unique fundraiser has gotten quite a bit of buzz, Keller spokesman Bryan Malenius said after HOH expressed some skepticism about suits coughing up for an event that skews toward a decidedly younger and platform shoe-wearing audience. “You’d be surprised. The PAC community is always looking for something new,” Malenius said.

But don’t expect Keller to be belting out the lyrics to Posh, Baby, Ginger, Sporty and Scary’s “Friendship Never Ends” anytime soon. “Ric’s been wanting to have an event with a reunion tour for the Bangles or Bananarama, but he had to settle for the Spice Girls,” Malenius says.

Whale Watching. Hayden Panettiere, who plays the indestructible cheerleader Claire Bennet on the NBC show “Heroes,” may be wishing she had actual superpowers this week when she storms Washington as spokeswoman for the “Save the Whales Again” campaign. Panettiere will meet with reps from the embassies of Japan, Norway and Iceland today before making her way up to the Hill on Tuesday for a press conference to urge the United States to take more of a leadership role in protecting whales from commercial slaughter.

HOH hears that later, she’s slated to attend a reception hosted by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) — um, no “save the cheerleader” jokes allowed. Panettiere is no stranger to controversy surrounding her aquatic friends. Last year, she hopped on a surfboard off Japan’s coast to interfere with fishermen who were killing dolphins.

HOH figures her Washington activism this week will be a bit tamer, and (sorry guys) involve more clothing.

Briefly Quoted

“I’m going to stay out of it.” — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

“And he’s a boxer.” — Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

The two leaders were responding to a question during a National Press Club appearance Friday about what they could do to keep the leading Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.), from beating each other up.

Lauren Whittington and Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.

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