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Heard on the Hill: The New Fist Bump

Just as they are with their words, politicians usually are conservative in their nonverbal gestures. They might wave, give a thumbs up or slap an occasional high-five when they’re feeling particularly jaunty.

[IMGCAP(1)]So Rep. André Carson’s sideways peace sign, which he flashed as he descended the steps of the Capitol on Thursday, certainly got our attention. The symbol — the traditional V-shaped peace sign, only with fingers held perpendicular — looks more at home on a teenager posing for a Facebook picture than on a Congressman. The gesture is popular among young people, and according to the online Urban Dictionary is referred to as “chunking a deuce,— which conveys a greeting or a sign of respect.

But like most youth-generated trends (think Twitter circa 2008), it hasn’t yet filtered up to the staid halls of Congress.

The Indiana Democrat (who at 34 is one of the youngest Members) was just trying to “keep things loose and have some fun,— says his communications director, Justin Ohlemiller. “The Congressman would have given the photographer one of President [Barack] Obama’s famous fist bumps but he didn’t want to distract him,— he tells us.

Thanks for Nothing. House Minority Leader John Boehner, like Groucho Marx before him, doesn’t want to belong to a club that would have him as a member.

The Ohio Republican dropped by the high-profile drafting session the House Energy and Commerce Committee held Friday to wrap up the health care reform bill but declined the, er, honor of being part of the panel.

Boehner, who is not an Energy and Commerce member, sat on the Republican side of the dais for several minutes and listened to the proceedings.

[IMGCAP(2)]Ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas) asked that the committee recognize Boehner as a temporary member, a privilege often accorded to Members of Congress who sit in on meetings of panels to which they don’t belong. Barton asked if there were any objections, and the only one to pipe up with a protest was … not a Democrat, but Boehner himself.

Thanks, but no thanks, he essentially said before scooting out of the room.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel says the Republican leader dropped by to thank his troops who have worked on the bill. “They’re helping make sure it’ll be a long, hot summer for Democrats trying to defend this lousy bill back in their districts,— Steel tells HOH.

A Rush Job? Who’s the best communicator of the Congressional GOP’s message? Why, it could be Rush Limbaugh, according to a contest the House Republican Conference is holding.

The Conference plans to award a “golden microphone— to the Member who gets the best press over the August recess and the message man (or woman) who helps them.

Limbaugh, the bombastic right-wing talk- show host, often refers to the “golden microphone— he uses in his broadcasts, and the phrase is synonymous with the controversial conservative.

Matt Lloyd, spokesman for Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.), says the Rush reference wasn’t intentional. He notes that Pence himself has a radio background. “It’s just something he chose,— Lloyd tells HOH.

Silence, apparently, isn’t golden.

Detective Work. Time to put on those thinking caps: Who were the Members-turned-convicts to whom Rep. Dan Lungren referred during a recent committee hearing?

When the House Administration Committee took up the issue of public financing Thursday, the California Republican shared his disgust with campaign fundraising, noting only a particular type of Member actually likes grubbing for cash.

“I hate raising money for campaigns. The only two people I know who enjoyed it went to prison,— Lungren said, drawing laughter. “But I won’t say names.—

The Congressman still isn’t talking; a spokeswoman Friday declined to comment. But have no fear, dear readers — we drew up a list of potential suspects:

No. 1: Former Rep. Duke Cunningham. Like Lungren, he’s a California Republican — only Cunningham pleaded guilty in federal court in 2005 to charges of tax evasion, conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and wire fraud. He resigned his seat a few weeks later, went to prison and is scheduled for release in June 2013.

No. 2: Former Rep. Bob Ney. After the Ohio Republican found himself linked to the Jack Abramoff scandal, he pleaded guilty to corruption charges and served 17 months in prison. Released in 2008, he now has his own show on the Talk Radio News Service.

No. 3: Former Rep. Jim Traficant. The toupee-wearing Ohio Democrat might have ended his speeches with an emphatic, “Beam me up,— but after being convicted on charges including taking bribes and racketeering in 2002, he was expelled from Congress and beamed to prison. He’s set for release in September.

No. 4: Former Rep. Jay Kim. The California Republican pleaded guilty to taking $230,000 worth of illegal campaign donations in 1997. He didn’t go to jail (he instead wore a tracking device on his ankle for a while) but lost his 1998 re-election bid. An interesting note: Lungren, then attorney general of the Golden State, endorsed Kim’s primary opponent, Rep. Gary Miller.

Jackie Kucinich and Emily Yehle contributed to this report.

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