Heard on the Hill: One Man’s Trash, Another Man’s (Campaign) Treasure

Posted September 17, 2008 at 6:51pm

In these times of economic trouble, it can be tough to raise the cash for a Congressional race. Folks just aren’t as keen to shell out thousands of dollars to sip chardonnay at a stuffy fundraiser.

[IMGCAP(1)]But out in Idaho, Rep. Bill Sali has decided to raise money by using a simple, grass-roots technique that church groups and youth sports teams have employed for decades — he’s hosting a yard sale!

Actually, the freshman Republican is urging all of his supporters to host yard sales, with the profits from all those old clothes, dishes and furniture going to his Congressional campaign. Yard sale hosts also receive campaign literature to hand out to their bargain-seeking clients, a way to generate interest in the campaign while raising money.

“Some people who are calling our campaign have never been involved in a campaign before,” spokesman Noah Wall tells HOH. “They’re looking for ways to help Bill, and a yard sale is a neat way for them to get involved.”

Not everybody finds the fundraising method so appealing, especially since sales from old albums and shoes aren’t likely to pay off Sali’s campaign debt. According to the FEC, as of June 30, Sali’s debt stood at more than $135,000. (One snarky strategist joked, “Bill Sali is as ineffective a fundraiser as he is a Congressman.”)

But Wall says the campaign office has gotten plenty of feedback from Idahoans who want to get involved, calling the yard sales an easy grass-roots technique to reach the everyday folks who will ultimately decide the election.

“The idea is still new and was only proposed a couple weeks ago,” Wall said. “We have received quite a bit of interest and are firming up a number of dates for future sales.”

He Couldn’t Stand the Heat. Warm weather has lingered into September, making it tough for anybody to survive without air conditioning.

But is air conditioning worth getting arrested over? You’d have to ask Donald Price.

A Capitol Police officer spotted the 43-year-old District resident riding a motor scooter eastbound near the 200 block of Constitution Avenue Northwest about 4 p.m. on Saturday. What caught the officer’s eye was that Price also was towing an air conditioning unit via a hand truck — perhaps not the safest means of transport.

The officer asked Price to find another way to move the unit and then sent him on his way, according to a police report. But Price allegedly ignored the officer’s demand, deciding instead to head north on First Street Northwest, the report reads. So, police again stopped Price, ran a background check and found that he had no driving privileges in D.C., Maryland or Virginia, according to the report.

Price was placed under arrest and transported to Capitol Police headquarters, where he was charged with traffic violations including driving with a nonvalid permit and driving a nonregistered vehicle, the report reads.

Here’s to hoping Price eventually found a less arresting escape from those hot temps.

Campaign Body Double. A-list Hollywood actors often employ stand-ins to handle challenging scenes, be it for a rough action stunt or something a bit more naughty.

Seems A-list Senators on occasion use stand-ins, too. Take a recent campaign ad put out by Democrat Anne Barth, who is aiming to win the seat held by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) in West Virginia.

The 30-second ad features an old man sitting in a rocking chair on a long, white Southern porch, his face concealed while he reads a newspaper titled “The Changing Times.”

Next to him is a younger man, perhaps his son, who talks of how Barth is “one of us” and “the change we need.” At the end of the ad, the younger man asks, “So who are you for in November?” at which point the camera zooms in on the old man, who pulls his newspaper down and reveals himself as Sen. Robert Byrd.

“I’m for Anne Barth,” Byrd answers in a jovial voice.

A cameo appearance by the beloved West Virginia Democrat is a great get for Barth. But one campaign official admitted that Byrd didn’t do all the work — a stand-in handled some of the newspaper holding. (One possible reason: 90-year-old Byrd’s hand occasionally shakes, which would make it difficult for him to hold the newspaper.)

Still, the ad has been a big hit in the Mountain State, Barth spokeswoman Talley Sergent tells HOH. “Obviously, West Virginians love Sen. Byrd, and it’s very humbling for him to be such a huge supporter,” she said.

Seizing the Opportunity. While House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) is trying hard to fend off the GOP’s attacks over his messy math, political pundits and rivals are using the scandal for their own advantage.

Take Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), who is attempting (probably in vain) to rally Rangel’s support for his bill that would make English the official language of the United States.

Rangel, you recall, has said he didn’t know how much he made off the 2006 sale of his Florida condo because the folks overseeing the sale often spoke in Spanish. Enter Tancredo, who writes in a sarcastic letter sent to Rangel on Tuesday that he’s “sympathetic” to Rangel’s failings.

Tancredo continues: “While passage of this bill will do little to reform our hopelessly complex tax code — or assist you in escaping your current ethical dilemma — its passage may help ensure that future generations of Americans less wealthy than yourself can live in a country where they can use an ATM, call a customer service department, or shop at their local grocery store without having to find a translator or ‘Press 1 for English’ as they must often do in the America of today.”

Tancredo hopes Rangel will join five Republicans and co-sponsor the bill, according to a spokesman. “Rangel blamed his problem on the fact that the [property] business was done in Spanish. We may as well make English the official language so that every American can understand it,” Tancredo spokesman T.Q. Houlton told HOH, adding that Rangel has not responded to the letter.

Briefly Quoted. “Paris Hilton will tell you, this is not rocket surgery.”

— Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), discussing the Democrat-backed energy bill on the House floor on Tuesday.

John McArdle and I-Ching Ng contributed to this report.

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