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Weiner Photos Draw Eyes to Little-Known House Gym

Women, Sullivan says, are welcome to use the larger gym if they like, too.

Sullivan says the committee selects and purchases equipment to meet the needs of the gym's patrons and pays for it using their dues. He looks for quality gear that will stand the test of time, he says (i.e., no fad items like ThighMasters). Five gym staffers, employees of the Architect of the Capitol, man the facilities, but Sullivan himself enjoys pitching in, helping to make sure colleagues are using proper techniques on the machines.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (Ill.), the Democratic co-chairman of the gym committee, is quick to defend the gym against those who might say it's a cushy perk, noting the use of private funding. And asking 435 Members to find private facilities in which to work out isn't really feasible, he says, because of security and privacy concerns.

"It makes sense that they would want to exercise in the bubble of security provided by the Capitol Police."

Regulars say it's a safe haven from rabid politics, too, a rare place where Members from opposite sides of the aisle can bond. "It builds camaraderie," Sullivan says. "I've got guys from both parties that I see at my locker, and we talk all the time."

And as for excitement in the gym? Not so much. In fact, Sullivan and Jackson both note that those photos Weiner shot actually violated the rules of the gym, where signs warn patrons that photography isn't allowed. "And these are not paper signs," Jackson says. "They're carved onto placards."

Sullivan says he's heard stories from years past. "You hear about the guys who used to drink in there, maybe 30 years ago," he says. "Now the only thing we've got down there is V8."

Still, the facility has been the setting for some entertaining tales over the years.

Massa apparently isn't the only one who finds nude encounters with one's colleagues to be a little off-putting. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter once explained why his patronage of the House gym was so short-lived.

The Michigan Republican — a known chain-smoker — told Fox News in 2009 that he found the facility's lack of ashtrays a deterrent. And then there was a too-handsy exchange he had with a fellow Member: "The one time I was there, my first trip, someone sort of was talc-ing themselves," he said during an interview on Fox News' "Red Eye." The guy "offered their hand, and I just said, 'Hey, we're cool, dude.'"

And allegedly poking Massa wasn't the only workout Emanuel got at the House gym. He was known for crack-of-dawn workouts that continued long after he left Congress to become President Barack Obama's chief of staff. Former colleagues surmised Emanuel kept up his workouts at the Congressional facility as a way of keeping tabs on them.

But perhaps the modern Members' gym, with its flat-screen TVs and fancy machines, isn't as colorful as it used to be. Among the tales from the gym's history are those of Ace Kovaks, a Hungarian immigrant who was the longtime "House masseur," known for frequently coming to work with a hangover — and for his vigorous rubdowns.

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