Product Placement for Edwards

Posted May 16, 2003 at 6:36pm

Someone flipping through the campaign finance reports of Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) was stunned — stunned! — to see an expenditure for $1,815.27 paid out to the “New York Hairspray Company” in February.

“That’s a lot of hair spray,” cracked the staffer for a rival presidential candidate.

Since Edwards is battling the image that he’s a pretty boy with a gravitas gap, HOH felt it was time to put some tough questions to spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri.

But the hair care story didn’t hold up. It turns out that the entry in the Federal Election Commission reports was slightly misleading.

The Edwards campaign bought about 200 tickets from the “company” — as in the cast — of the Broadway musical “Hairspray” to bring some campaign donors to the show.

“Actually the Senator doesn’t use any product in his hair,” Palmieri said with a laugh. “I wish he would because then his hair wouldn’t flop in his eyes like it does.”

At early morning events, Edwards tends to show up with a sopping mane. “It’s literally dripping wet,” she said. “He’s not blow-dried, that’s for sure.”

In other vanity news, Senate GOP Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (Pa.) found an interesting way to pass the time while sitting in the presiding officer’s chair during Thursday’s big tax-cut debate.

Lawmakers find many ways to stay busy for the chore. In this case, Santorum was spotted autographing a stack of glamour shots of himself for his many fans from coast to coast.

Rayborn Meets Hastert. Paige Ralston, spokeswoman for Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), got engaged last week to a man who sounds like he hails from a rather famous political family.

But Jim Rayborn, who’s not aware of any direct connection to the late Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-Texas), makes his money in commercial real estate — not politics. And Ralston says she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I don’t want Jim to work on Capitol Hill. I love that,” she said of their divergent careers. “His world is full of vastly different things.”

The House staffer is the daughter of retired Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston, who is now at the Cohen Group.

And Rayborn does have at least one Capitol connection: His grandfather, William McGrath, was a Capitol Police officer who met his wife, Dee McGrath, while she was working as a Capitol tour guide.

The couple are planning a fall wedding in D.C. “Jim is the Martha Stewart, so less than 24 hours after the engagement he had the date and venue nailed down.” (At HOH’s prompting, she hastened to add that her future hubby is not like Stewart in any kind of insider-trading-allegation way.)

Rayborn proposed on the Speaker’s balcony, with its amazing view of the National Mall, last Wednesday night. Hastert and his wife, waiting in a nearby room, were on hand to pass along congratulations.

Rookie Mistake. An out-of-breath freshman Rep. Linda Sanchez (Calif.) showed up late for the Democratic Caucus meeting last Wednesday and tried to rush into Cannon House Office Building Room 345.

But Sanchez was stopped at the door because there was a problem: The Democrats were actually meeting in the basement of the Capitol. So she came very close to sneaking into the GOP Conference meeting.

“I understand I got busted for showing up and trying to spy on the Republicans,” Sanchez told HOH later in the day. “But the truth is I showed up and realized they didn’t have a game plan. So I left.”

Republicans, however, thought her decision to miss the early part of the Democratic Caucus meeting might have something to do with Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (N.Y.) recent comedy routine at a Democratic event.

“She was tired of hearing Anthony Weiner’s blue standup routine,” joked Jonathan Grella, spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

When Political Dynasties Attack. Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) couldn’t resist a few good-natured jabs at Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) at Thursday night’s 10th Annual Morris K. Udall Awards.

The dinner, which was co-chaired by Roll Call’s Mort Kondracke, raised a whopping $710,000 for the Parkinson’s Action Network.

Kennedy and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) won the annual Udall awards, which are named for the late Rep. Mo Udall (D-Ariz.), the quick-witted lawmaker who suffered from Parkinson’s disease. But Kennedy and Cochran had to send videotaped greetings to the dinner because they were stuck in the Senate voting on the $350 billion tax cut that eventually passed the chamber.

With the lawmakers missing, Mark Udall had some fun at the podium. “What can be said about Ted Kennedy that hasn’t already been in … the National Enquirer?” asked Udall, who also joked that he was put off by Kennedy’s decision to use his family name to get his start in politics.

“He is a giant on Capitol Hill,” Udall added of Kennedy. “I understand he’s also a great Senator.”

Udall then mentioned something his father and the Senator had in common. “They both wanted to run for president in the worst way,” he said. “And they both did.”

As for Cochran, Udall noted that the Senator lost by a wide margin in his 1996 race against Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) for Majority Leader. Udall quipped that if Cochran had won, “we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the last few months.”

He’s a Stitch. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) cemented his status as the funniest man in the Senate when he was honored at the Fourth Annual John Chafee Dinner & Awards sponsored by the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership last Wednesday.

Roberts has followed in the footsteps of another Kansan, former Sen. Bob Dole (R), with his wisecracks. And one of his first targets was moderate GOP Rep. Amo Houghton (N.Y.).

“Amo Houghton was so green when he first came to Washington that he had a bumper sticker on his car that said, ‘Honk if I’m from New York,’” cracked Roberts.

Roberts later pulled a cellphone from his pocket and pretended to take a call from President Bush.

“I’m Pat Roberts,” the Senator said. “No, not the preacher. … I’m in the Senate … No sir, the U.S. Senate.”

Shut up! Signs of stress during Thursday’s vote-a-rama taxed Senators’ patience, but perhaps no more than Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who in no uncertain terms told colleagues to close their traps.

A rising chatter could be heard in the early moments of the marathon session on Bush’s economic plan, even as Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) tried in vain to explain the ground rules of the debate. It was enough to make a visibly fatigued Grassley to blow his top.

“I don’t care if anybody listens to me, but it would be nice if everybody would just shut up just so you didn’t have to go through that 10 times today,” he barked.

Grassley was nearly as abrupt with reporters a couple of weeks ago when the Finance panel was struggling to come to consensus on the tax bill. The panel was meeting behind closed doors in the Dirksen Senate Office Building late one evening to open the lines of communication between the two parties, and scribes were staked out in the hallway desperate for news.

The chairman finally emerged from the room, only to immediately duck into another door and start running down a hallway in the Finance offices. Confused reporters tried to figure out what had become of Grassley when he suddenly emerged from yet another doorway about 100 feet or so down the hall.

A comic scene ensued as journalists gave chase to the chairman, who went into a full sprint and raced into the Hart Senate Office Building, which is directly connected to Dirksen. “He was flying as fast as you physically can,” mused one eyewitness. “I’ve never seen a chairman do that before — who wasn’t under indictment.”

The reporters never caught up to the 69-year-old lawmaker, who is an avid jogger. But he wasn’t trying to snub the scribes. “He had a plane to catch,” spokeswoman Jill Kozeny told HOH.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the panel’s ranking member, eventually emerged from the meeting room and heard the reporters marvelling about Grassley’s speed. Baucus recalled that his colleague had recently hurt his foot.

“I guess it doesn’t hurt anymore,” he quipped.

Tonight Show With John Ashcroft? While Katie Couric scored big in her guest run as substitute host for Leno on “The Tonight Show” last Monday, Attorney General John Ashcroft appears to be itching for a shot at the gig.

Attendees say the former Senator was full of quips last week when he appeared at the Bush administration’s Philanthropy Roundtable at the White House.

After walking up a long flight of stairs to get to the conference room at the White House, “I find myself in the rare position of a politician without much wind,” he joked.

The man who’s been under fire for allegedly eroding civil liberties later revealed that he recently sculpted a Statue of Liberty out of barbed wire on his farm in Missouri.

“This demonstrates the restraints of liberty and security,” he quipped.

Reaching Out to Condit. In his effort to promote a program that’s trying to get kids to stop bullying other children, Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) is trotting out an interesting example.

Cunningham apparently thinks the program might help ex-Rep. Gary Condit (D-Calif.) — remember him?

The anti-bullying program, known as “Don’t Laugh at Me,” is promoted by Peter Yarrow, who sings a song by that name. “Don’t laugh at me, don’t call me names, don’t get your pleasure from my pain,” he sings in reference to kids with glasses and braces and other challenges.

In a recent floor speech about the program, Cunningham recited the lyrics and then said he couldn’t help but think of what Condit went through.

“Many of us tried to befriend Gary Condit,” said Cunningham. “Think about how he must have felt. I think we need to think about those kinds of things as individuals when we see people that are outside.”

Cunningham noted that Condit, who was pilloried for his relationship with the late Washington intern Chandra Levy, ended his Congressional career pretty much isolated.

“In our major military institutions, the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy, we will find each year that someone takes a dive off the top of a building,” he continued. “They have found that in most cases the individual has isolated themselves away from the rest of his group.”

Cunningham concluded that the program “is going to help not only children, but adults all over the United States.”

Maybe there’s still hope for Condit, who’s said to be holed up in Arizona with his wife.

“What can I say other than that Duke is a compassionate guy,” Cunningham spokeswoman Harmony Allen told HOH. “He feels that when people are hurting, we should bring them in and help them rather than ostracize them.”

Hill Boy Makes Good. House staffers are helping to throw a Georgetown fundraiser on Tuesday night for Gifford Miller, the speaker of New York City Council, who’s flirting with the idea of running for mayor of the Big Apple.

The Congressional connection comes from the fact that Miller got his start in politics answering phones and opening mail for Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). In a decade, he’s gone from Hill receptionist to the youngest city councilman in the city’s history.

“Even at that young age, Gifford had exceptional people skills, policy knowledge and political instincts,” recalled Jeremy Rabinovitz, Maloney’s former chief of staff who is now the top aide for Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.). “If he does decide to run, he’ll make a great candidate and an even better mayor.”

Girl Power. Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are among the co-sponsors of Wednesday night’s gala to benefit Women in Government Relations and the WGR LEADER Foundation.

The event, held at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, will honor Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.) will serve as celebrity auctioneers to help raise dough for the foundation, which brings together female elected officials, lobbyists and staffers to support women’s leadership programs.