Skip to content

Chariots Afire

Look out, Straight Talk Express. You’ve got competition. This week, a giant tour bus rumbled through town, its sides emblazoned with “Congressman Travis Childers” in giant letters and an oversized Congressional seal.

[IMGCAP(1)]The bus arrived, to the amusement of HOH tipsters, just in time for the Wednesday swearing-in ceremony for Rep. Travis Childers (D-Miss.), the winner of the special election to replace Rep. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who was

appointed to the Senate in January following the retirement of Sen. Trent Lott (R). The presence of the bus on Washington’s mean streets had some observers wondering if Childers would regularly be tooling around town in the giant vehicle (um, note to the new guy: Traffic’s bad here).

And if the bus looked like the sort used by musicians on tour, that’s because it was. It belongs to Larry Michael, a lifelong friend of Childers’ who just happens to run a company, Celebrity Coaches, that supplies tour buses to traveling bands, including Mötley Crüe, Gwen Stefani and Rascal Flatts. Michael tells HOH he was only too happy to round up Childers’ mother, aunt and a handful of friends and make the 1,200-plus-mile trip up to Washington to watch the newest Member of Congress take his oath.

The fancy lettering on the bus isn’t permanent, he explained to HOH, but was a piece of plastic — called a “wrap” in the bus biz — that can be easily changed.

Taking the bus isn’t that much more time-consuming than flying, he says, if you factor in airport security and wait times. And then there’s the not-even-in-first-class amenities, like two lounges, a sleeping berth and plenty of satellite TVs.

Michael, a Tupelo businessman and Mississippi native, says visiting the nation’s capital for the first time was a thrill, but he’s happy to be back down South. “We had a great time, and Washington’s a nice place to visit,” he tells HOH. “I’m just glad I don’t live there.”

Yeah, the traffic, for one, is a pain.

Flack Smackdown. An e-mail exchange between two flacks on Wednesday over free trade had all the makings of a sandbox spat. It started when Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the U.S. trade representative, sent out a blast e-mail with a news clip from the “Mini Page,” the kiddy section that runs in the comics pages of newspapers around the country. The clip gave an elementary explanation of trade issues, including a mention of the importance of the Colombian free-trade agreement the White House is pushing, and Democrats on the Hill are dismissing.

One Democrat took umbrage at Spicer’s e-mail, which he took to mean that the administration thinks Congress doesn’t understand how trade works and needed a primer fit for a third-grader. Joe Shoemaker, spokesman for Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), wrote back to Spicer (and a few other Hill staffers and reporters) calling the message “somewhat condescending.” Shoemaker pointed Spicer to another kid-friendly tutorial, this one from the classic “Schoolhouse Rock!” series that educates children (and a few adults, too) about how a bill becomes a law — a process, that, of course, traces a piece of legislation as it travels through that other branch of government.

Spicer says he didn’t intend for the e-mail to be a slap. Rather he just meant to share an interesting news clip with the folks on the e-mail list — which included Hill Members and staffers, administration folks, academics and journalists. “I wanted to show people the outreach we’re doing, which I’m proud of,” he tells HOH. “I think you need a very cold beverage and a long weekend if you’re offended by the ‘Mini Page.’”

Shoemaker, though, rebuffed the attempt at education. “I thought it was a childish stunt and deserved one in turn,” he tells HOH.

Might HOH suggest that everyone go to the time-out corner for a little breather before coming back out to play?

Richardson’s Home, Foreclosed Home. The housing crisis is hitting close to, er, home for one California Democrat. A bank foreclosed and seized a three-bedroom second home owned by Rep. Laura Richardson, the Capitol Weekly newspaper in Sacramento reported.

According to the paper, Richardson apparently stopped making mortgage payments on the home, which she bought in 2007 for $535,000 and had been renting out. But unlike some mortgage holders who’ve experienced foreclosure, Richardson isn’t out on the streets, since she also owns her primary residence, which is located in her Congressional district.

HOH located a “notice of default” listed for Richardson in a search of county records. Richardson denied that the Sacramento home was in foreclosure and that the bank had seized the property. She added that she is working with her lender to modify the loan and fully intends to fulfill all financial obligations.

The paper says Richardson owes more than $600,000 in unpaid mortgage and fees.

Teddy Can Roar, But Not Sing. With all the tribute being paid to Sen. Edward Kennedy, who was released on Wednesday from a Boston hospital after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, we’ve heard plenty about the legendary Senator’s storied record, his championing of issues and his fighting spirit. His buddy, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd (D), though, at a charity karaoke event on Wednesday reminded us of one of the Massachusetts Democrat’s less noted qualities: a totally lousy singing voice.

“You want to hear a bad voice, you listen to Ted Kennedy sing,” Dodd joked. Dodd made the remark at the Capitol CAREaoke, held on the rooftop of 101 Constitution Ave. NW to raise funds for Childhelp, a group that works to prevent child abuse. Of course, Dodd was merely trying to keep things upbeat, calling Kennedy a fighter and telling folks he’d bring the Senator to sing at the event next year (although he warned the audience it wouldn’t be pretty).

Also sending well-wishes was Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), who was scheduled to attend the bash but had to be with his father in Boston instead. While the Kennedy clan couldn’t attend, plenty of other Members showed up — although HOH notes that it was mostly media personalities and a few other local quasi-celebs who actually took to the mike to sing.

Wedding Bells, Softly. Sen. Daniel Inouye is getting ready to tie the knot this weekend with Irene Hirano, and in keeping with the Hawaii Democrat’s decidedly soft-spoken demeanor, the wedding will be a low-key affair, HOH hears.

Inouye’s best man will be his son, Kenneth, and Hirano will be attended by her daughter, in a small celebration that will include only immediate family, Inouye’s spokesman says. The ceremony will take place in a Los Angeles church, although the couple isn’t disclosing the exact location or that of the reception.

Inouye, 83, and his bride, 59, will have a bicoastal marriage, since Hirano is the president and CEO of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

Just don’t look for helicopters swirling overhead, a la the usual tabloid wedding. “This is a couple that is not seeking the attention of the paparazzi,” his spokesman says.

We’re shocked, shocked to hear it.

A Capitol Engagement. Sen. Daniel Inouye isn’t the only person feeling the love on Capitol Hill this week.

National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ken Spain proposed to girlfriend, Emily Kryder, at the top of the Capitol Dome on Wednesday. Kryder, the press secretary for California Democratic Rep. Lois Capps, said yes, and afterward told HOH she was utterly surprised by the proposal. Spain certainly did his part to keep things a secret — he even thought to take the ring through security before he met Kryder so she wouldn’t catch on, she said.

“He was so calm and collected I didn’t suspect a thing,” she said. “I guess the years of taking tough press calls have given him nerves of steel.”

And, hey, maybe the bipartisan union will inspire more good feelings across the aisle.

Briefly Quoted. “If ‘ands’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, every day would be like Christmas.”

— Poet-cum-House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), in response to a reporter’s wordy preamble to a question about potential Democratic gains in November.

Submit your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments here.

Recent Stories

Total eclipse of the Hart (and Russell buildings) — Congressional Hits and Misses

House plans to send Mayorkas impeachment articles to Senate on Tuesday

Harris sticks with Agriculture spending, Amodei likely to head DHS panel

Editor’s Note: What passes for normal in Congress

House approves surveillance authority reauthorization bill

White House rattles its saber with warnings to Iran, China about attacking US allies