Heard on the Hill: Vroom, Vroom

Posted September 17, 2010 at 5:37pm

Don’t be alarmed if you saw a guy in a suit speeding around Capitol Hill in a car last week; that was just Sen. Lamar Alexander test-driving a new electric car. In fact, the Tennessee Republican liked the car so much that he ordered one.

The Senator took a spin Thursday in the Leaf, Nissan’s first all-electric, zero-emission vehicle. Then he bought one.

“Electric cars are the best way to reduce our use of foreign oil — I just wish the Leaf came in plaid,” says Alexander, a co-sponsor of the Promoting Electric Vehicles Act.

And he is no stranger to green cars, having driven a Toyota Prius for the past two years.

Famous Name

A Kutcher will be on Capitol Hill this week — but it’s not who you think.

Michael Kutcher, actor Ashton Kutcher’s twin brother, will be lobbying Members with the nonprofit group Reaching for the Stars for increased federal funding in the fight against cerebral palsy. And in a move that HOH expects would make his famous brother proud, Michael Kutcher will live-tweet his trip to Capitol Hill — he has an impressive 12,000 or so followers (although Ashton has more than 5 million).

Michael Kutcher suffers from cerebral palsy.

“Myself as an adult, I realized that there’s probably no cure for me, there’s probably no way for me to decrease my severity,” he says. “I’ve learned to adapt to it, and I’ve adapted to it well. To me, it’s about the kids. It’s about finding a cure.”

It’s Michael Kutcher’s first trip to D.C., and the self-described politics junkie says he’s excited to visit.

The Iowa native is hoping to meet home-state Sens. Tom Harkin (D) and Chuck Grassley (R). He’s already lined up meetings with Kareem Dale, the White House’s special assistant to the President for Disability Policy, and a number of House Members.

“I’m the guy in the office who would rather have CNN or Fox News on the desktop than ESPN,” he says. “I can’t tell you who the quarterback for Notre Dame is, but I can tell you who the leader of Iran is, who the leader of North Korea is.”

Sex, Money and Politics

Turns out that the old political adage is true: Republicans get in trouble with voters for sex scandals, while Democrats get into hot water because of financial transgressions.

Villanova University professor Lara Brown will host a party Tuesday for her new book, “Jockeying for the American Presidency.” But HOH was more curious to learn about Brown’s research on juicy Congressional scandals.

Note to Democrats: You can sleep around, but don’t take any bribes. Republicans: Grab that cash, but don’t have sex.

“Voters have expectations about what is a good Member, and they’re much more offended by hypocrisy than a transgression,” Brown tells HOH. “I often joke that most Democrats think other Democrats are having sex, and most Republicans assume other Republicans have conflicts of interests.”

But don’t get too worried, embattled Members of Congress.

Brown’s research studied House Members involved in scandals from 1966 to 2002. She found that while voters will turn against a Member for a sex or financial scandal (depending on the party, of course), most survive because of gerrymandered districts.

“All of the individuals who seem to be in jeopardy for a scandal, whether you’re talking about [Sen. David] Vitter in Louisiana … or a [Rep.] Charlie Rangel or a [Rep.] Maxine Waters, my gosh, Charlie Rangel won his seat on average in the last two elections by 90 percent,” Brown says. “Maxine by 80 [percent]. They’re not going anywhere.”

Brown is working with Jeff Gulati, a professor at Bentley University, to study how media coverage has affected scandals during the past decade.

“I think that so much of politics is, for lack of a better word, staged. It’s the one time you see the system erupting,” Brown says of scandals. “I always think of it like a volcano. It’s hard to study a volcano when it’s not erupting.”

Strike a Pose

Put on your best outfit, fashionistas — Gucci is coming!

Fashion icon Giorgio Gucci, of the Florence, Italy-based design house, will be on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. The style maven will be speaking about intellectual property issues as they pertain to fashion (such as that knockoff Coach bag you bought from a street vendor).

No word on which lawmakers Gucci will be meeting with — or whether he’ll be handing out style tips.

Attention All You Twi-Hards!

Get ready to hear shrieking. One of the stars of “Twilight” is coming to town this week.

Actor Kellan Lutz, who plays vampire Emmett Cullen, will be on the National Mall on Tuesday to announce the America’s Promise Alliance list of the “100 Best Communities for Young People.”

Several Members of Congress are set to join the heartthrob, including Reps. Harry Teague (D-N.M.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Jim Moran (D-Va.).

Can’t get enough HOH? Get a midday dose of fun and gossip with HOH’s One-Minute Recess, delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here — because everyone deserves more recess.

Submit your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments here.