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Heard on the Hill: Pay-to-Play Fundraising

He might be one of the younger Members of Congress, but Rep. Patrick McHenry isn’t downplaying his boyishness. He’s playing it up, throwing a Tuesday fundraiser in which donors are invited to take on the North Carolina Republican in a rousing video game tournament.

[IMGCAP(1)]Thirty-four-year-old McHenry is challenging all comers to a game of Wii, the video game that’s a favorite of kids (and, OK, more than a few adults), urging them to “Test Your skills at Tennis, Boxing, Golf, or Bowling.—

McHenry, unsurprisingly, is an accomplished Wii-er. But spokesman Brock McCleary tells HOH his boss hasn’t had as much time to practice his skills these days. “Serving in Congress and getting married have gotten in the way— of a rigorous training regimen, he tells us. McHenry is in the throes of wedding planning with his fiancee, Government Accountability Office economist Giulia Cangiano.

And McCleary says it wasn’t just a chance to show off his mad Wii skills that inspired the event. “He thought it would be a unique and fun concept for a fundraiser,— he says.

Guess we’ll find out tomorrow whether picking tablecloth colors and tasting wedding cake choices have thrown McHenry off his game.

A ‘Prostitute’ Plea to Vitter. Conservative commentators went wild when Sen. Mary Landrieu voted to proceed on the health care bill after securing $300 million in Medicaid funding for her state, with flamethrowers such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh likening the Louisiana Democrat to a high-rent hooker.

Now, Landrieu’s fellow Louisiana Democrats want someone powerful to come to her defense: her Republican colleague Sen. David Vitter. The Louisiana Democratic Party got in a clever two-fer last week when they urged Vitter to denounce the slurs against Landrieu. Not only did the move put heat on Vitter to stand up to Republicans, but it slyly called attention to his scandalous past.

Louisiana Democratic Party spokesman Kevin Franck insists that its plea to Vitter has absolutely nothing to do with the Republican’s 2007 sex scandal in which he admitted to a “serious sin— after his phone number was found in the records of the “D.C. Madam.— “This is not an issue about Sen. Vitter’s past,— he told HOH. “It’s an issue about the kind of rhetoric being used in politics today.—

Democrats aren’t saying (outright anyway) that Vitter has any particular expertise on prostitutes. “Vitter is Sen. Landrieu’s colleague, so it would only make sense that he would defend her,— Franck says.

Calls to Vitter’s office went unanswered, but we’re not holding our breath for Vitter to voluntarily address that particular touchy topic — in any context.

Start Your Shopping. Think of it as the grown-up version of the Tickle Me Elmo, or whatever is the hot holiday toy of the year: The U.S. Capitol Historical Society has unveiled its annual Christmas tree ornament.

And the 2009 edition of the ornament that depicts the Capitol’s West Front and Christmas tree has a powerful pitchman: Weatherman Willard Scott will tout the ornament on NBC’s “Today— show sometime during the shopping season, the historical society says.

This year’s bauble is partly crafted from bits of marble from the East Front steps that were removed in the building’s 1994 to 1995 renovations. It’s available at

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? It’s not as sexy a topic as what first lady Michelle Obama was wearing, but HOH’s post-state-dinner chatter included a pressing question — who was House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s guest?

The Maryland Democrat (one of Capitol Hill’s most eligible bachelors), who looked dapper in a tuxedo at the event on Tuesday, invited Kathleen May, according to the White House guest list. Hoyer’s spokeswoman tells us May is a retired staffer who worked for Hoyer for more than 30 years. And no sparks here, people — the two are just old friends, HOH hears.

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