Aug. 29, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Obama Staff’s Big Gamble

Sen. Barack Obama might boast that he’s on a mission to clean up Washington’s ethics. But the Illinois Democrat and presidential candidate might want first to look in his own camp, where he’d find a veritable hotbed of illicit activity.

Campaign spokesman Bill Burton last week told National Journal that press assistant Lauren Thorbjornsen had taken home $250 for winning the Obama campaign’s NCAA hoops pool. Law-and-order readers might have picked up on the fact, though, that office pools actually are illegal. In fact, betting on sports is banned everywhere except Nevada and Atlantic City, N.J., which makes the Obama staffers who participated in the pool outlaws by definition.

Yes, yes, we know that office pools are a staple of workplaces around the country (According to a study by Careerbuilder.com, 19 percent of workers say they participated in such a pool.) But the “everybody’s doing it” defense doesn’t usually work so well.

Obama, who’s a hoops fan himself, won the Senate’s 2007 pool, although it wasn’t clear whether there was money involved, or just glory.

An Obama spokesman would not comment on the matter.

Stay tuned: Next week, HOH hopes to bring you the sordid real-crime tale of staffers for Obama rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) gleefully ripping off those mattress tags that read, “Do not remove under penalty of law.”

HOH: The Contest! Because we know just how competitive Hill types are, and how much you love free T-shirts, HOH is proud to bring you the first installment of an occasional feature, Heard Mentality. We’ll be asking readers to submit their HOH-larious answers to our challenges. Then we’ll print the best of the entries. Your inaugural task: In honor of the Fifth Annual Congressional Blues Festival, come up with the title and as many lyrics as you like for a Congress-themed blues song. Bonus points for anything that rhymes with “302(b).”

The winner will snag not only the glory of having his or her submission run in HOH, but a super-snazzy T-shirt proclaiming the wearer’s witness. And in case that’s not enough incentive, here’s a little extra motivation: Your chances of winning are way better than your odds of winning The New Yorker’s caption contest.

For the blues-song contest, please submit your suggestions by April 21 to hoh@roll call.com, with the subject line “Heard Mentality.” Good luck!

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