Vitter’s Reprieve?

Posted April 8, 2008 at 6:52pm

Sen. David Vitter may be on the “D.C. Madam’s” witness list, but the Louisiana Republican may be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

While there was nary an official mention of Vitter during the second day of the trial, accused madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey showed her hand to an acquaintance during a break in the morning’s testimony, according to an HOH tipster who overheard her talking.

[IMGCAP(1)]Palfrey told an unidentified gentleman sitting in the back row of the D.C. federal courtroom that she thought the trial was going “well” and that she had confidence in her latest attorney, Preston Burton. When the man asked Palfrey the million-dollar question — whether the Senator from Louisiana, allegedly a client of Palfrey’s, was going to be called to the witness stand — she responded that she didn’t think it was likely and that she was hoping the judge would throw the case out after the prosecution finished its case.

The trial so far has largely focused on the seamy details of Palfrey’s Washington escorts, who, according to testimony, were paid $250 for a 90-minute client visit.

No word from Vitter on whether he’s thanking his lucky stars that he may be able to avoid the hot seat. The junior Senator has stayed mum on the topic, except for an unsuccessful plea from his attorney last week to quash the defense’s subpoena.

Fightin’ Words. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) may be trying to show his softer side to voters, but now it’s his campaign that’s throwing punches — at an author who claims McCain got in a fistfight with Arizona Republican Rep. Rick Renzi back in 2006. McCain spokesman Brian Rogers refuted the story in Cliff Schecter’s new book, “The Real McCain,” that fisticuffs broke out after McCain repeatedly referred to both Renzi and Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) as “boy” in a meeting.

The story is “tabloid trash,” Rogers tells HOH. Renzi did not return HOH’s calls.

“I’ve known John McCain for over 20 years, and certainly during that time there have been a few spirited disagreements, but never has he called or referred to me as ‘boy,’ nor have I ever seen him ‘punch’ or attempt to punch anyone,” Franks told HOH.

Still, Schecter stands by his book, which details the Renzi run-in as well as some of McCain’s other not-so-friendly moments. Schecter, a former Washington consultant, says he collected much of the dish found in the book in McCain’s home state.

“I found the most interesting information from Arizona because people know the truth about him there and a lot about him that has never been reported nationally is known there,” said Schecter, who traveled to Arizona last June to do research for the book.

Schecter is a former McCain supporter (he gave McCain $20 in 2000 for his presidential bid), but he says he leans Democratic in his political views and that he changed his mind about McCain after the 2000 election.

And although the McCain camp is flatly denying the flap, it seems Renzi is no stranger to flaring tempers. In 2005, HOH reported on an altercation between Renzi and fellow GOP Rep. Mark Kirk (Ill.) after he and some other Members did some polling on embryonic stem-cell research in his district without telling Renzi. The pair clashed on the House floor, but Renzi’s temper was assuaged after an intervention by then-Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.).

Another Day, Another Blog. Sure, everyone knows that the typical Hill staffer of lore is a badge-wearing, intern-ogling climber with a miserable bank account and a grinding Bud Light-induced hangover. Celebrating that stereotypical underling is a new blog, Stuff Hill People Like, a snarky takeoff of the popular blog Stuff White People Like, which generally pokes fun at the mores of upper-middle-class yuppiedom.

The Hill-centric blog,, is the brainchild of four former and current staffers who won’t reveal their identities, one of the writers tells HOH. They hatched the idea after an all-day drinking binge on St. Patrick’s Day, the writer says, but progress was delayed because they were too drunk to remember the password for the blog.

The blog mirrors the format of Stuff White People Like in that it keeps a numeric tally of things central to the life of a Hill staffer. So far that list includes business cards, interns, the defunct series “The West Wing,” Google’s online chat feature, recess and their parents’ money. The writers self-deprecatingly lump themselves in with the very folks they mock, they say, so it’s all in good fun. And they tell HOH they’re surprised at the number of hits they’ve gotten (1,000 in the previous 24 hours) from places as far-flung as Chile and Malaysia.

And if there’s one more item HOH might humbly add to the list of things Hill people like, it’s another goofy blog to distract them.

Trail Takes Hill Detour. They’ve got the whole baby-kissing, waving-to-huge-cheering-crowds thing down pat, but now the three presidential hopefuls have returned to the Senate for decidedly less glamorous work.

Still, it seems, old habits die hard.

A group of tourists broke into applause and cheers when they spotted Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the basement of the Capitol, a witness tells HOH. The candidate amiably shook hands with his apparent supporters. And Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), too, got some points and stares from visitors to the Capitol, a tipster tells us.

Erin P. Billings contributed to this report.

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