Bluntly Speaking

Posted May 2, 2003 at 6:26pm

Bluntly Speaking. Conservatives were stunned to read a faxed version of a notice from House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) inviting staffers to his regular 10 a.m. legislative briefing last Friday on a bill just about to hit the House floor.

Eyebrows were raised over one particular piece of legislation said to be on the agenda: H.R. 1261, The Workforce Reinvestment and “Adult Entertainment” Act of 2003.

A quick check of the facts showed that the latter half of the bill is actually the “Adult Education Act” of 2003. Some eager male staffers were apparently drawn to the gathering in the belief that there might be some spicy entertainment at the briefing.

“All I can say is that attendance at this week’s Whip Legislative Briefing was at an all-time high,” Blunt spokeswoman Burson Taylor told HOH after the meeting.

Meanwhile, some of the same computer gremlins seem to have struck the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The DCCC tried to slam Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.) last Thursday for recently signing a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to cancel a food contract with Sodexho.

It turns out that the French-owned company employs many people in Ferguson’s state. But the DCCC press release mistakenly charged that the Congressman had urged the State Department to sever the contract with a company that employees 110,000 Americans.

“Who says an online degree from DeVry isn’t good enough to land you a top communications job on the Hill?” cracked one GOP aide.

“Yes, we made a boo-boo in our press release,” shot back DCCC spokeswoman Kori Bernards. “But that doesn’t excuse the huge boo-boo that Mike Ferguson made, which was to ask the secretary of Defense to cancel a contract which would eliminate 4,000 New Jersey jobs.”

Family Feud. It sounds like two famous cousins, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Fox News Channel reporter Douglas Kennedy, must have some pretty interesting conversations at Thanksgiving.

The reporter was on the Hill last Thursday accepting a journalism award from the National Foundation for Women Legislators for a Fox series on the potential dangers of ritalin. When it came time for the Congressman to speak, he couldn’t resist a poke.

“There’s the famous story about the man from Damascus who was an Israeli spy in Syria,” the Congressman told the crowd. “That’s a little bit like how we feel about Doug working for the ‘Fascist News Channel.’”

“Wait a minute,” the reporter shouted out. “It’s just ‘fair and balanced.’”

“Yeah,” shot back the Democratic Congressman, “fair and unbalanced.”

Re-designing Hoyer. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) seems to be a prime candidate to star in a future episode of “Trading Spaces,” the wildly popular design show on The Learning Channel that offers participants a makeover of a room in their house.

Hoyer recently had a two-fer: He spruced up his Whip’s office in the Capitol during the recess with some new paint and carpet — and then found out that Washington Life magazine airbrushed his photo a bit to include him in their Second Annual “Men of Substance & Style” contest. (Maybe the show should be called “Trading Spaces and Faces.”)

The Maryland Democrat was the only lawmaker to make the list, which included distinguished gentlemen such as former Redskins great Art Monk and Raul Fernandez, the billionaire who’s co-owner of the Washington Capitals, Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics.

But what really caught HOH’s eye is the fact that the normally low-key lawmaker is featured decked out in a fancy Arnold Brant pinstriped suit with a stylish silver necktie to match his hair. And his teeth in the photo, which was shot at the trendy Vega Contemporary Furniture store in D.C., appear to be unnaturally white — along with barely any other blemishes on the 63-year-old lawmaker.

“I think our graphic artist does Photoshop sometimes,” acknowledged the magazine’s editor in chief, Nancy Bagley, daughter of gazillionaire Democratic donor Smith Bagley. “If we had more time and staff, I think we would make everyone look their best.”

Hoyer’s allies were less than thrilled about the changes. But Bagley said the focus should be on the fact that he is being honored for giving back to the local community.

“I hope he doesn’t get ribbed too much,” she said. “He’s helping a local magazine and he should be proud that he’s helped the community.”

As an encore, meanwhile, Hoyer is apparently thinking about chucking his clothes à la the Dixie Chicks. “All I’ll say is that Mr. Hoyer was a natural at the shoot,” said spokeswoman Stacey Farnen. “Look out for the next cover of Entertainment Weekly. He’ll be covered with politically correct tattoos.”

Leif It To Ensign. Don’t look now, but there’s at least one sign of thaw in the partisanship roiling the judicial nomination process.

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) has submitted the name of Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) son, Leif, for a lifetime federal judgeship. Hey, we may have actually found a nominee that Democrats won’t filibuster.

Leif Reid, 35, is one of four names that Ensign sent to the White House for an upcoming District Court vacancy in Nevada. The White House will have the final say over who gets the slot.

Ensign and Reid have enjoyed a strangely close relationship over the past two years, considering how tough their 1998 race was, with Reid winning by a little more than 400 votes.

It will be interesting see what the American Bar Association makes of this potential appointment. Leif Reid, a 1995 law school graduate of Stanford University, was admitted to the Nevada bar in 1996, nowhere near the minimum of 12 years of practice the ABA usually requires for nominees to get a “qualified” rating.

David Bunning, the son of Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), won a seat on the District Court in Kentucky after getting a not-qualified ABA rating for not meeting the 12-year minimum. Ensign is adamant that Leif Reid — a former assistant U.S. attorney — is qualified for the post and was not passed along to the White House as a favor to the senior Senator.

“We would not have put his name on that list if he was not immensely qualified,” said Ensign spokesman Jack Finn. “Every applicant is thoroughly looked at.”

Ford vs. Oxley. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) was spotted huddling over lunch in the Members’ Dining Room on Thursday with John Calipari, the men’s basketball coach at the University of Memphis.

While Calipari was in town lobbying for more physical education funding, Ford told HOH he had an ulterior motive: advice on how to beat the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee in their pickup basketball games in the House gym.

“I told him how to promote PE on the Hill, and he gave me pointers on how to take Mike Oxley [R-Ohio] off the dribble,” said Ford.

Max-imum Bitterness. Senate Democrats were upset about what they considered a snub of ex-Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.).

The Senate passed The Digital and Wireless Technology Program Act of 2003, sponsored by Sens. George Allen (R-Va.) and Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.), last week. It will provide $250 million annually to help close the digital divide at historically black colleges, in addition to institutions that serve many Hispanic and American Indian students.

The problem arose over the fact that the bill closely mirrored legislation sponsored last year by Cleland.

“Regrettably, it was held up by the Republican leadership in the Senate, presumably in order to deny Senator Cleland any victory as he sought re-election,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) charged in a floor speech.

Leahy groused that efforts to have the program named for Cleland were “rebuffed.”

Allen spokesman Clint Manning told HOH:. “The bill has wide support and anything else is really beside the point of the legislation,” he said. “The point of the legislation is to help these institutions.”

Paul Kane contributed to this report.