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Heard on the Hill: Law, Order and Public Finance

Don’t expect “Law & Order— actor Sam Waterston to follow his former co-star Fred Thompson into the world of politics: His political ambitions don’t rise beyond playing district attorney Jack McCoy on TV.

[IMGCAP(1)]“No! No chance at all,— Waterston told HOH of a potential run for office, laughing. “I like my day job.—

While Waterston won’t be running for public office anytime soon, he is getting involved in some heavy political issues. The silver-haired actor came to Capitol Hill on

Wednesday to lobby for a wonky campaign finance reform bill that would create a system of public financing for Congressional races.

The House Administration Committee will take up the measure today, but since Waterston can’t attend — “I have to be at work. I wish I could be there,— he said — he spent most of Wednesday touting the benefits of the measure to star-struck MoCs.

Waterston met with several dozen Members, including Democratic Reps. John Larson (Conn.) and Chellie Pingree (Maine) and House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (Pa.).

Waterston told HOH that Members seemed receptive to the bill, noting many told him that “the present system has to change because it takes too much time away from the work they have to do.—

“You get a lot of miles on you, you begin to realize these kind of things are the necessary precursors to all the other things we want,— Waterston added. “And now, I hope I’ve come just in time for the victory lap.—

[IMGCAP(2)]And the prosecution rests.

There Goes the Neighborhood. Pity Rep. Laura Richardson’s Sacramento neighbors. They’ve had to live with the California Democrat’s neglected, foreclosed-upon home (rats and peeling paint and weeds, oh my!) and finally resorted to mowing the lawn themselves — and now, according to an L.A. Times story, they’re being interviewed by Congressional ethics officials.

The Times reports that representatives from the Office of Congressional Ethics have queried neighbors about how much they’ve spent out of their own wallets to maintain the house, which Richardson temporarily lost in foreclosure. The money could constitute gifts banned by House ethics rules, the paper reports.

One couple who lives nearby told the Times that they’ve spent $160 having their gardener and neighborhood kids maintain Richardson’s lawn.

In addition to questioning neighbors, investigators have contacted the investor who bought the home when it was in foreclosure (the court later returned it to the Congresswoman). If the ethics office thinks it’s a serious enough matter, it can refer it to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct for further action.

In a statement e-mailed to Roll Call, Richardson did not comment on the report of an ethics investigation, but said, “For more than a year now, I have endured the same personal, biased, partisan and in some cases deliberately inaccurate claims regarding my property in Sacramento, which have had no basis in fact.—

The house has been an ongoing saga for the Golden State Democrat. Foreclosure aside, Richardson has owed back taxes on the property, and the city of Sacramento has declared it to be a “public nuisance— and “blighted— on separate occasions, the paper notes.

This latest twist is bound to make summertime block parties all the more awkward — and Richardson can just forget about borrowing a cup of sugar next door.

This Bill Is Groovy, er … Sick. You might be old enough to have kids of your own if you count “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air— and “Titanic— as cultural touchstones. That’s why legislation introduced Tuesday by Rep. Alan Grayson aimed at high school kids seems downright retro: It includes references to those by-now-musty classics.

The Florida Democrat wants high schoolers to learn about the Constitution, and his bill cites alarming statistics about how ignorant young people are of basic civics. Among them is this nugget: “Whereas a 1998 survey revealed that more teenagers knew who the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ was than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, more knew the star of the motion picture Titanic’ than who was the vice president of the United States, and more can name the Three Stooges and the 3 American Idol judges than can name the 3 branches of government.—

Of course, educating youth about the underpinnings of our Democracy is a timeless goal, but might HOH suggest updating the pop-culture references a tad? We’d guess, for example, that more kids these days know the names of the Jonas brothers than their Congressional representatives.

Last Resort. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is taking a stand against discrimination, but not against racism or sexism. The Nevada Democrat is targeting city-ism.

Reid on Wednesday introduced the Protecting Resort Cities from Discrimination Act, which would prevent federal agencies from adapting policies that would prohibit government travel to cities known as “resort destinations.—

Reid argues that policies instituted by former President George W. Bush that required federal agencies to “avoid locations that give the appearance of being lavish or are resort destinations— are discriminatory because they unfairly forbid travel to specific cities even if it is otherwise reasonable to hold meetings there.

“If it makes the most sense economically and logistically to hold a meeting in Las Vegas or Reno, then that’s where it should be held,— Reid said. “Paying more money to hold a meeting in another city for appearances sake is unfair to all U.S. taxpayers and a waste of their money.—

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel wrote to Reid on Monday to inform him that the Bush-era policy has been reversed. But with his bill, Reid wants to make sure such discrimination never happens again.

He forwarded Emanuel’s letter to the heads of federal agencies and, in his own letter, asked that they reverse any policy that they might have forbidding trips to Nevada.

He even put in a plug for Las Vegas and Reno, noting that “room rates are relatively low … convention and meeting space is plentiful, travel in and out of Nevada is convenient, and amenities are unmatched.—

Niels Lesniewski of GalleryWatch contributed to this report.

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