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An Angry Star Is Born

Well, it turns out that Salter is right. Jarecki originally made his film for the BBC. Then he hit the big screen.

“I never imagined we’d win Sundance and be picked up by Sony [Pictures],” he said. With that, he headed over to the Motion Picture Association of America for a second Washington, D.C., screening.

Spotted: Bizarre Threesome. What was Mr. (er, Dr.) Anti-Hollywood, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), doing having lunch Tuesday with Mr. Hollywood, the actor Richard Gere?

Coburn, Gere and McCain were spotted at a table in the Senate dining room having a ball. Both McCain and Coburn appeared “gaga” for Gere, one source told HOH. Coburn, she said, was “staring admiringly at [Gere] the whole time.” And McCain, she said, was laughing so hard at one point that he had his head on the table.

After running such a distinctively Anti-Hollywood campaign, it was a little shocking to hear that Coburn was cozying up with Gere over vittles. But sure enough, according to Coburn spokesman John Hart, the good doctor dined with Gere, taking the actor up on an open invitation he had sent inviting Senators to dine with him to discuss HIV and AIDS.

“I’m sure they discussed Tibet,” Hart joked of the actor, who’s made “Free Tibet” his big cause. Hart added dryly, “I hope they discussed earmarks.”

He said Coburn is “always looking for ways to build left-right conferences” but added that the Senator hasn’t gone squishy. “In case anyone is worried about him going off the reservation,” Hart said, “he did have breakfast with George Will this morning.”

Burned Out. Ryan Thomas, an aide to Sen. Conrad Burns (R), is leaving his post as the Montanan’s top staffer on the Appropriations subcommittee on the Interior amid lingering questions about his role in helping clients of ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Thomas, who was not available for comment, was on the now-infamous January 2001 trip to the Super Bowl in Tampa with Abramoff, along with another Burns staffer, then-Chief of Staff Will Brooke. Also on board the Abramoff-financed jet were aides to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), as well as Neil Volz, who was then chief of staff to Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio).

Each of the Members whose aides were on that trip have become enmeshed ever-deeper in the now two-year Abramoff probe. James Pendleton, Burns’ spokesman, confirmed that Thomas was leaving but had no knowledge of what his next job would be. Pendleton defended the work of Thomas, who was a staffer in Burns’ personal office before moving over to the subcommittee when his boss became chairman.

“He intends to move on, and we wish him the best of luck,” Pendleton said, adding that Burns appreciated the years of Thomas’ “good, hard work.”

It is certainly common for committee staffers to leave the Hill before the legislative season heats up, but his exit comes as Burns is taking lots of political heat from Montana Democrats eyeing that seat in November.

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