Heard on the Hill: The Diesel Rips Off the Viper

Posted April 16, 2010 at 5:50pm

When Rep. Darrell Issa launched the security company Directed Electronics more than 25 years ago, the California Republican set out to stop automobile theft. So who would have known that a 7-foot-1-inch basketballer-turned-rapper would end up ripping off an iconic part of Issa’s own work?

[IMGCAP(1)]Issa was honored by the Recording Academy at the annual GRAMMYs on the Hill event Wednesday evening for supporting legislation requiring radio stations to pay artists
when their music is played on air. And Issa told
the audience that he personally feels the artists’ plight, as he also had
his work played over the airwaves without earning any royalties: NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal used the Congressman’s voice, without permission, on one of his rap albums.

(Remember when Shaq was a rapper?)

Issa’s voice appears on Directed Electronics’ trademark product, the Viper car alarm, which scares away car thieves with the blaring phrase, “Please step away from the car.” Shaq ended up sampling Issa’s Viper recording on one of his rap songs, the Congressman recalled.

“So, I know what it is like to get played on the radio and not get paid,” Issa said.

Issa never ended up going after Shaq to get his share of the rap song’s royalties, a spokesman tells HOH. But don’t feel too bad for the Congressman: With an estimated minimum net worth of $164 million, Issa is considered among the richest Members of Congress.

Splish Splash at a Charity Gala. Washington lobbyists often like to make a splash — and one of them literally did on Wednesday night when he stumbled into a fountain at the March of Dimes Congressional gala.

Mike Smythers, a lobbyist for BNSF Railway Co. and a former White House and Senate staffer, landed in the fountain in the National Building Museum’s Great Hall in a scene that was just a smidge less dramatic than when F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald famously cavorted in the Plaza Hotel fountain.

An embarrassed (but dried-out) Smythers told HOH the story: He arrived to the dinner a little late, after the lights had dimmed. As he made his way across the unfamiliar space, he caught sight of his table mates, waved to them and then proceeded to trip into the fountain, getting soaked from his knees on down.

“Nothing’s hurt, just my ego,” he said.

Smythers, an enthusiastic supporter of the March of Dimes, said he didn’t want to let a little sogginess keep him from enjoying the speeches and the evening, which featured dueling dishes made by Members of Congress and raised money for local low-income pregnant women.

Friends have teased him about the tumble, he said, including one who sent him a link to L.L. Bean’s waders with a suggestion that he wear them to the next dinner that he attends.

A Case of Mistaken Identity. While it’s no secret that there’s a tad bit of animosity between the House and Senate, Members rarely admit to it.

But Rep. Diane Watson alluded to the divide during a recent briefing that she hosted on the Senate side — and perhaps in a case of wishful thinking, she even mistook one of her own for a Member of the upper chamber.

The California Democrat sponsored a star-studded forum on the environment Thursday afternoon with “Avatar” director James Cameron, actress Sigourney Weaver, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and columnist Thomas Friedman and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough. And Watson, who chairs the Congressional Entertainment Caucus, specifically mentioned she managed to reserve the ornate Dirksen Auditorium in the Dirksen Senate Office Building for the occasion.

“We’re always privileged to come over, and we will thank our upper house members for allowing us the privilege,” Watson joked.

Watson then spotted a fellow Member walking into the room and urged him to join her, saying: “Come down, Senator. Come on down.”

Only Watson wasn’t speaking to a Senator — she actually had spotted Rep. Ed Markey (D), who considered running for the Massachusetts Senate seat left vacant after the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) but decided to remain in the House. (The seat is now occupied by Republican Sen. Scott Brown.)

Watson quickly corrected herself — “I mean Congressman,” she said — and Markey took it in stride, shouting, “I didn’t run! I didn’t run!”

Want Bipartisanship? Add Booze. Actress Sigourney Weaver is becoming a regular on Capitol Hill — the “Avatar” actress not only appeared alongside director James Cameron at a forum on environmental issues last week, but she’s also headed back to the Hill on Thursday to lobby on ocean acidification for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The visits are a homecoming of sorts for Weaver, who revealed during the briefing that she briefly worked as a Congressional staffer for a Republican Congressman (whom she did not name) before hitting it big as an actress.

HOH asked Weaver how things have changed since she roamed the Capitol hallways decades ago — and the actress pointed to a decreased level of bipartisanship, which she said might be improved if Members socialized a little more.

“I do think, probably when I was here, there was a lot of informal discussion between party members,” Weaver said, adding while D.C. cocktail parties get a bad rap, they help friendships develop across party lines. “Apparently, there’s not a lot of that now. And I think that’s a shame, and I hope it changes.”

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