To Break All Laws

Posted July 3, 2003 at 5:38pm

To Break All Laws. It turns out the jury duty dust-up involving Anupama Rangappa, a campaign aide to Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), wasn’t her first brush with the law.

Rangappa was briefly jailed by a D.C. Superior Court judge last month for skipping out on jury duty to attend a Kerry event in Iowa. She eventually pleaded guilty to a contempt charge and was fined $1,000. Rangappa will also do 120 hours of community service and write a 25-page essay on the importance of jury duty, according to The Washington Post.

But political involvement has intertwined with Rangappa ending up on the wrong side of the law before. In March 2000, Rangappa, working on then-Vice President Al Gore’s campaign for the White House, was pulled over and arrested in Nashville, Tenn., for suspicion of drunken driving.

According to an article published at the time in The Memphis Commercial Appeal, Officer Joseph Simonik alleged that Rangappa threatened to use her political connections against him after he stopped her.

Simonik, who stopped Rangappa’s car after observing it travelling 85 mph in a 40 mph zone and subsequently smelled alcohol on her breath, claimed Rangappa tried to intimidate him.

“I am on the Gore 2000 campaign and I’m going to call the United States district attorney right now,” Rangappa reportedly told Simonik, according to the arrest report. Rangappa failed a field sobriety test and refused to take a blood-alcohol test.

Rangappa, who was also a White House intern (in the same crop with Monica Lewinsky) before moving over to the Gore campaign, is now an employee of the Dewey Square Group, which has a contract with the Kerry campaign.

Rangappa declined to comment.

“Anu is a friend of this campaign and understands she made a bad decision that has been dealt with by the courts,” said Kerry spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Odd Couple. Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who doesn’t exactly have a reputation as a good quote around town, should provide quite a challenge for author Jonathan Franzen.

Franzen, whose 2001 novel of a modern family in disarray, “The Corrections,” won widespread critical acclaim, has been tasked with profiling the Speaker for “Quite Possibly the Best Magazine Ever.”

Hastert and Franzen recently sat down together for a 35-minute interview in the Speaker’s Capitol office for The New Yorker piece, and Franzen also traveled to Aurora, Ill., over the weekend to observe Hastert in an Independence Day parade. Franzen and Hastert went to Cleveland as well, where they attended a recent fundraiser for freshman Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind.).

The noted author even huddled with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who himself is not known as being a huge fan of the press, for the profile.

HOH wanted to know whether Hastert had any concerns about meeting with Franzen, who garnered national headlines for snubbing another well-known Illinoisian, Oprah Winfrey, when he turned down a chance to appear on her show to talk about his book, deeming it an unsuitable forum to discuss “real” literature.

Hastert spokesman John Feehery pointed out that Franzen was born in Chicago and raised in St. Louis, giving him strong Midwestern credentials despite Franzen’s reputation as a New York intellectual.

“He’s a fascinating fellow. I’m sure he’ll write a fascinating profile of the Speaker,” Feehery said.

New Digs. It isn’t exactly a happy ending, but the sad story of former Rep. Parren Mitchell’s (D-Md.) nursing home care appears to have come to a conclusion.

According to The Baltimore Sun, Mitchell last week was moved from a nursing home in Baltimore to another in suburban Towson after a dispute over more than $100,000 in unpaid bills at the old nursing facility was settled.

The Sun reported extensively last year about Mitchell’s financial difficulties, implying that some of his friends and family had stolen from his savings. At one point, the nursing home temporarily seized control of Mitchell’s estimated $60,000-a-year Congressional pension to cover the debts after successfully arguing in court that the 81-year-old former lawmaker was incapable of managing his financial affairs.

Mitchell is part of a storied civil-rights family, and many of his relatives have served in public office.

Arthur Frank, an attorney for Mitchell, told the Sun last week that his client switched nursing homes for health reasons. He refused to elaborate.

Frankly Speaking. GOP pollster Frank Luntz took a few swings at prominent members of both parties in the invite to his Fourth Annual Baseball All-Star Party.

Luntz issued a list of the Top 10 reasons to attend the July 15 bash at his tony home in McLean, Va., with Hastert on the receiving end of one of the first salvos.

The No. 9 reason to attend is that “the pool will be heated to a luxurious 90 degrees, and the hot tub a searing 102. (NO SPEEDOS, SPEAKER HASTERT).”

The No. 5 reason pokes fun at a Maryland Democrat: “Senator Barbara Mikulski. Twister. Need I say more?”

No. 4 is that guests will have “a chance to upset 5-time cannonball contest champion Al Sharpton.”

And based on No. 3, you can breathe a sigh of relief if you’re planning to bring a bathing suit. Luntz claims the one-way focus group mirrors have been “removed from poolhouse changing room this year.”

Houghton’s Loss. Among the many fans of screen and stage who mourned the recent death of actress Katharine Hepburn, put Rep. Amo Houghton (R-N.Y) near the top of the list.

It turns out that the Congressman was a cousin of the famed actress, whose full name was Katharine Houghton Hepburn.

The screen legend was a first cousin of the Congressman’s father, according to the lawmaker’s office. And the relationship was close, with the Congressman’s grandfather taking Katharine and her sisters in when her parents died.

“He was saddened by the death,” spokesman Bob Van Wicklin told HOH.

Caught in a Web. Web surfers looking for the site of Palmetto State Senate candidate Rep. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) late last week got a surprise. No, cyberhackers hadn’t replaced the South Carolina Member’s picture with racy photos. Instead, www.demint.org routed users to the site of would-be Senator Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who is challenging Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) in a GOP primary. DeMint is running for the Republican nomination to face Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.).

Was it a case of cybersquatting by the Pennsylvania Member? No, insisted an official at Dynastrategy, the Internet consulting company that has constructed and hosts the campaign Web sites for both men. Merely a glitch in the matrix, which was corrected by Friday afternoon. Just for the record, DeMint’s official Web home is www.demint2004.org; Toomey’s can be found at www.pattoomey.org.

Ed Henry, Josh Kurtz and Chris Cillizza contributed to this report.