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Heard on the Hill: What’s Inside Their Wallets?

Sure, Members’ financial disclosure forms tell the public all kinds of important stuff about potential conflicts of interest and the like. But let’s face it: HOH is only interested in the weirder tidbits tucked amid the stacks and stacks of documents.

Among the oddballs we fished out of the latest filings:

• Rep. Paul Tonko had a stroke of luck in 2008 — the New York Democrat won $2,500 in the New York lottery. Spokesman Beau Duffy tells HOH that in the early summer, the Congressman played a Win4 ticket, using the last four digits of his telephone number for the lotto entry.

Seems like that’s a phone number Tonko should make sure he keeps.

• Financial disclosures also give HOH a chance to peek into Members’ Christmas stockings — or at least see what kind of lovely presents they get.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) reported receiving a painting from noted artist Jamie Wyeth worth more than $5,000, as well as two first edition books on “The Common Sense of Yacht Design.” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) got two presents that sounded lovely from nonpolitical family friends: a “glass pumpkin” worth $675 and a “seahorse ruby and diamond brooch” worth $2,250.

Clearly, HOH is hanging with the wrong crowd; we’re usually happy to get a nice book or maybe some socks.

• Should Rep. Tim Walz ever decide to leave Congress, the Minnesota Democrat has a fallback career in place: Walz remains on leave without pay with the Mankato Area Public Schools. Walz, who worked as a teacher at Mankato West High School before coming to Congress, renewed his teaching license last year, spokeswoman Sara Severs tells HOH. The license is valid until 2013, and Walz successfully petitioned the board of education to place him on leave-without-pay status.

“This allows teachers to return to their teaching job if they choose and benefits students who can learn from their teacher’s life experience,” Severs says. “Teachers at Mankato West go on leave-without-pay status for a variety of reasons, whether it be to help raise a family, to complete a doctorate, to teach abroad, or even to serve in Congress.”

You Can Hear Them Now. To Capitol Hill denizens, BlackBerry service is pretty much like oxygen. And if there’s a single spot in the Capitol complex where service is slow, you can bet Members are all over it.

In the report accompanying the fiscal 2010 legislative branch appropriations bill, Members direct Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard to fix the spotty wireless access in the underground Capitol Visitor Center — and quickly.

“The CAO is directed to give the highest priority to expanding wireless and Blackberry service to the Capitol Visitor Center and the CVC House expansion space,” the directive reads.

CAO spokesman Jeff Ventura tells HOH that officials already are working with provider Verizon Wireless to boost the wireless signal in the facility, where staffers and visitors often find themselves unable to receive phone calls or check their e-mail. The process should be completed within six months, he said.

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