Feb. 6, 2016

Spies Like Us

Three Capitol Hill insiders, including House aide Jim Brandell, will be starring in “Spymaster” — a new reality show that will debut March 30 on The Learning Channel.

The other two Hill contestants in the espionage drama are Warren Rojas, a Congressional reporter for Tax Notes, and Stephanie Whelpley, former spokeswoman for Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio.).

“I used to work on fostering democracy in Yugoslavia against Milosevic

so most of my friends thought I was a spy anyway,” joked Brandell, who is chief of staff to Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.).

TLC is billing the show as a “major new, high-octane television series” but — in true CIA fashion — is keeping the details close to the vest.

“If you’ve ever fantasized about being James Bond, this is the opportunity of a lifetime!” says the TLC Web site, adding of the 30 contestants who compete in the first episode: “You need quick wits and nerves of steel, you must be over 21 and physically fit.”

Whelpley said that DeWine, a member of the Intelligence Committee, has been on the edge of his seat waiting to see her debut.

“He’s excited,” said Whelpley, who’s now working for the G-8 Summit. “I’m an avid ‘Alias’ watcher. I think that’s what piqued my interest.”

Rojas said he answered an ad in the Washington City Paper looking for applicants. He thought it was a game show, so he showed up at a Dupont Circle hotel for the audition and eventually got selected to participate. The 30 participants get weeded down to 12 contestants and on down the chain until the show is left with one Spymaster.

“It’s like a crash course in espionage for everyday people,” Rojas said mysteriously, before declining to discuss it much further. “Unfortunately, I can’t tell you who won.”

Other spies, however, tell HOH that only two of the three Hill insiders make it through the first cut.

Frist’s Footsteps. One way to track the workload in the office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) is to take a look at the pedometers that just about all of the heart surgeon’s staff is wearing these days.

As a certified fitness freak, Frist handed out the footstep-tracking device to encourage his own staff to get serious about exercise. Doctors say that anyone logging about 8,000 steps a day is going to be in pretty good shape, and Frist is going to be handing out an award to the aide who ends up getting the best score.

But the device is also proving to be a pretty good aid in figuring who’s chained to their desks — and who’s logging some serious time running around the Senate — during busy days in the chamber.

When the chamber had one of its classic “Vote-a-ramas” during the recent debate over the budget resolution, Frist had to race back and forth from his Capitol office to the Senate floor for hours on end. That resulted in the Majority Leader’s body guy, Charlie Durkin, logging about 19,000 steps in one day.

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