A Tale of Two BlackBerrys

Posted April 25, 2008 at 6:21pm

The little things in life can sometimes be the biggest pain. Just ask Rep. Brad Miller.

[IMGCAP(1)]Like many Members of Congress, the North Carolina Democrat is often seen carrying two BlackBerrys — one for official business and another for his campaign.

Besides being slightly unwieldy, the practice recently sent him to the tailor after the weight of the BlackBerrys ripped his jacket, according to an HOH tipster.

“It’s annoying to carry both,” Miller told the tipster.

Miller was so irked about what he thought was the two-BlackBerry requirement that he talked to Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.) to see what he could do about it. Capuano, who is reviewing franking and other rules, told HOH he planned to look into it.

If he does, he’ll find that the House already changed the rules in 2005 so Members could get their official e-mail on their campaign devices and thus shed a BlackBerry.

The technology-averse Capuano (the Massachusetts Democrat doesn’t have a campaign e-mail account, let alone a BlackBerry) says he’s “fortunate enough to come from a district where I don’t need campaign e-mail.”

Still, not all lawmakers are ready to slim down to one BlackBerry.

Despite the rules, Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz says she plans to stick with her campaign iPhone alongside her government-issue BlackBerry, saying it just doesn’t feel right to keep her campaign activities and official duties on one device.

“It makes me uncomfortable,” she said. “I just don’t want to make any mistakes.”

She noted, however, that she has it easier than Miller. “I have a purse so I have room.”

Pimp My Party. Are the party dues Members must pay akin to prostitution? And if they are, does that make the party campaign committees the pimps, Members the prostitutes and special interests the johns?

Those are the questions HOH has been mulling after Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) used hooker metaphors to blast the campaign finance system — particularly the Member dues for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“I think it’s repugnant,” she said last week of the system, in which Members are expected to raise tens of thousands of dollars that they then pass along to their party. “I think it’s institutional prostitution.” Kaptur noted that Members are given sheets of paper with their committee assignments and how much they are expected to give.

“Is that closer to extortion or prostitution?” she asked. “Take your pick.”

Kaptur has been trying unsuccessfully to push election reforms, proposing a Sense of Congress resolution that the Supreme Court misinterpreted the Constitution in the 1976 Buckley v. Vallejo case, which struck down limits on campaign spending but preserved limits on individual donations. Kaptur’s resolution argues that unlimited spending has a corrosive and corrupting effect.

She also wants to require free television airtime for Congressional candidates.

“This whole for-sale government has to stop,” she said. “This place has to be disarmed.”

Kaptur has paid $120,750 of the $200,000 in DCCC dues that she’s expected to cough up as an appropriator. She’s only raised $12,500 toward a separate $250,000 fundraising goal for the DCCC and $12,500 for the “Frontline” program for vulnerable Members.

DCCC spokesman Doug Thornell disagrees with Kaptur’s criticisms of the dues system, noting that her contributions helped take over former Speaker Dennis Hastert’s (R-Ill.) seat in a special election.

“The DCCC is the House Democratic Members’ committee — it solely exists to protect and expand our majority,” Thornell said of Kaptur’s contribution.

But meanwhile, Kaptur has a healthy $895,000 sitting in her own campaign account — a number that would surely make even “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey proud.

Jones-ing for Quincy. Wondering where your Member of Congress was Wednesday night? HOH can account for the whereabouts of at least half a dozen Members: Reps. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Jane Harman (D-Calif.), Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Diane Watson (D-Calif.) were among the 200 guests at a 75th birthday party for musical impresario Quincy Jones.

The party was thrown by the Special Olympics — one of Jones’ pet causes — at the Kalorama mansion of Michael Klein, a lawyer and former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Stevie Wonder called in to relay his greetings, and he was one of the few people openly talking politics. “If it was not for [Illinois Democratic Sen.] Barack Obama, I’d vote for you for president,” he told Jones.

Later, he said: “Quincy, I love you. Call me when you get a chance.” Very industry. HOH’s spine tingled.

Watson presented Jones with a proclamation from Congress congratulating him on the milestone. But Waters wanted everyone to know that Conyers, who has been friends with Jones for decades, is every bit as cool as the maestro himself, keeping his colleagues up to date with the latest jazz sounds. “They’re joined at the hip, you know,” she said of Conyers and Jones.

Briefly Quoted. “Mr. Speaker, I enormously respect the distinguished and amiable gentleman from Ohio, the weight-lifting champ of the House gym. When he walks on the floor, the weights quiver and shake in awe of his appearance.”

— Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), admiring Rep. Steve Chabot’s (R-Ohio) physique before skewering him for supporting a measure that would give the historic steam-paddle boat the Delta Queen another Coast Guard exemption to keep operating.

Steven T. Dennis and Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.

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