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Heard on the Hill: What’s the Buzz?

Equally versed in an important issue on Tuesday was actress Ashley Judd, who joined Members of Congress and activists for a telephone press conference to promote the International Violence Against Women Act. Judd, who is pursuing a master’s degree in public policy at Harvard University, praised Congress for its bipartisan work on the bill. And in a move sure to please Hollywood-watchers on the Hill, Judd vowed to do what she could to promote the cause — including coming to lobby in person. “I’d be very happy to come to Washington,” she told reporters.

Judd’s work on anti-violence efforts has taken her to far seedier places. “I’ve spent a lot of time in brothels,” she said, where she and other workers helped promote women’s health and safety.

A New Focus. Dennis Brack didn’t realize that he’d been serving on the Senate Press Photographers’ Standing Committee for 25 years until he decided to step down.

“I had no idea it had been that long,” says Brack, who’s a fixture in the halls of the Capitol, where he has been a photographer for the Blackstone Agency — as well as a contract photographer with Time magazine and a freelancer for Newsweek and other magazines — since 1962.

Brack championed access for photographers to snap the pictures that tell the story of Congress during his tenure on the committee, where he served as the body’s longtime secretary-treasurer. But the 70-year-old lensman last week stepped aside, he tells HOH, to “leave some room for the younger guys” to step in.

He recalls big hearings, like those during the Iran-Contra controversy, and inaugurations, as some of the committee’s biggest challenges. He’s seen advances in technology that allow video to come from cameras no larger than those held by print photographers and an increase in the number of photographers seeking Congressional credentials.

Brack, who fellow photogs say is part of the press corps’ institutional memory, marvels at the changes that he’s seen. “If you told me back in 1985 that I’d be shooting a Senate hearing without film, I’d have thought something was wrong,” he says.

Keep Your Enemies Closer? Politics certainly makes for odd bedfellows.

Several Pittsburgh denizens, including Rep. Mike Doyle (D) and NFL Hall of Famer Franco Harris, were slated to attend a screening Tuesday at the Capitol Visitor Center of a movie about the Steel City. Other Members were listed on the honorary host committee, including Reps. Marcia Fudge (D) and Steven LaTourette (R) — notable because, as Ohioans, the pair presumably root for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ biggest rivals, the Cleveland Browns.

So, are they actually Steelers fans? LaTourette didn’t return HOH’s call, but Fudge says: “While I appreciate Pittsburgh, I’m a hometown girl who supports the hometown team. Go Browns!”

Political Paparazzi. Who needs the White House press corps when Members of Congress are around?

Several Members who attended Tuesday’s big health care bill signing ceremony at the White House provided pretty darn good news coverage of the event, taking photographs, posting items to Twitter and releasing detailed press releases. Perhaps most notable were Reps. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who offered constant Twitter updates during the A-list ceremony.

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