Heard on the Hill: Leahy Saves the Day

Posted September 3, 2010 at 5:58pm

Batman superfan Sen. Patrick Leahy was himself a superhero last week when he came to the rescue after a break-in at a Vermont school left students without computers.

After learning about the theft of 25 laptops at a school in Dummerston, the Vermont Democrat put local officials in touch with Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft. When they heard about what happened, both companies stepped up to the plate and donated 35 computers to the school, Leahy’s office tells HOH.

Leahy was scheduled to be at the Dummerston school Friday afternoon to celebrate the donation (and the birth of a new generation of computer geeks).

Leahy spokesman David Carle notes that the Senator is uber-tech-savvy and often holds online chats with schools in Vermont. Helping the school out was merely in Leahy’s nature, Carle says, pointing out that Washingtonian magazine has named him among the nicest Members of Congress.

“He didn’t get Washingtonian’s ‘nicest’ nod for nuthin,'” Carle jokes.

The Wheels Aren’t Turning

The swanky Cadillac Escalade is the vehicle reported stolen most often in the United States, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced in August. But the thefts aren’t just affecting the flashy celebrities known to love the sport utility vehicle; HOH has learned D.C. lobbyists are also falling victim.

And it turns out the crooks aren’t even taking the entire Escalade — just the wheels.

Among the victims is Kirk Blalock, a partner at Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock. He tells HOH that a few weeks back, he awoke to find his wife’s Escalade perched atop cinder blocks in his Alexandria, Va., driveway. Blalock reports that Alexandria police said an organized ring of thieves has been working the D.C. suburbs, searching for SUV wheels and tires that they can nab, usually in less than five minutes, and sell on the black market.

Interestingly enough, Blalock has been targeting a different type of thief with his work for the home improvement chain Home Depot on legislation against organized retail crime.

“Such crime is rampant in the nation’s retail chains, but … it may be headed to a driveway near you,” Blalock warns.

Battle Buddies

It’s one thing to bump into friends on the streets of D.C., but it’s quite another to bump into them in the deserts of Afghanistan.

Two Republican staffers from the House Foreign Affairs Committee keep running into each other while they’re serving with the military in Afghanistan.

Earlier this year, in the midst of Snowmageddon, Greg McCarthy was deployed to Kabul with the Marines, while Matt Zweig was sent to Kandahar with the Army Reserves. Since being in country, the friends have crossed paths twice.

McCarthy has even run into his boss, ranking member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who says the knowledge that the two men are overseas weighs heavily on her staff’s decisions.

“I’m very proud, as is our entire GOP Foreign Affairs familia, of two of our gang serving in Afghanistan,” Ros-Lehtinen tells HOH. “So when we debate the issue of U.S. involvement overseas, it touches us on a personal level.”

McCarthy and Zweig are due back in Washington for the start of the 112th Congress.

A Big Ticket

Members of Congress rack up a lot of air miles because of their jobs, but rarely are they given a $25,000 plane ticket.

Sen. Mark Warner’s most recent financial disclosure forms show that on Dec. 26, 2009, he accepted a $25,147 airfare to Colorado from Russ Ramsey, the Virginia Democrat’s longtime friend who also happens to be a wealthy financier.

But Warner wasn’t just jetting around the country for the fun of it — he had a legitimate reason to accept the pricey airfare.

HOH hears the Senator borrowed Ramsey’s private aircraft to cope with a “family medical emergency.” The Senate Ethics Committee granted a waiver for the expensive gift, Warner’s financial disclosure forms show.

Overheard on the Hill

“My other dogs are seriously depressed because … CoCo is not at home. They are all just laying around looking so sad.”

— Cindy McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), in a Friday tweet. CoCo, a 10-year-old poodle-terrier mix, entered an animal hospital last week after being diagnosed with a case of pancreatitis, Cindy McCain revealed in earlier tweets. As of Friday afternoon, CoCo remained in the hospital.

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