Another Misstep?

Posted September 22, 2003 at 6:19pm

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark only recently decided that he is a Democrat, so maybe it’s not all that surprising that his staff appears to be a little bit mixed up about the party affiliation of the Members from the critically important state of Iowa.

But staffers in the Iowa offices of GOP Reps. Tom Latham, Jim Leach and Jim Nussle were baffled to receive calls last week from Melissa Moody, a staffer on Clark’s presidential campaign, that made it sound as if the general was seeking their endorsements.

Moody called a staffer in Latham’s Ames, Iowa, office on Friday and said that Clark was interested in meeting with the Congressman. It seemed like a strange request given the fact that the other presidential contenders are busy sucking up to the Iowa delegation’s only two Democrats, Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Leonard Boswell.

So the Latham staffer took a message and decided to call the Congressman’s D.C. office to check in with Chief of Staff Mike Gruber. In the wake of the brouhaha over Clark’s flip-flop on how he would have voted on the Iraq war, Gruber wondered whether the general’s staff was not up to speed on things.

“We were baffled by the request,” Gruber told HOH. “We reminded Mr. Clark’s staff that Congressman Tom Latham is a Republican and is supporting President George W. Bush in the Iowa caucuses and the general election.”

Even after being reminded about Latham’s party affiliation, however, Clark’s staff persisted that they wanted to set up meetings with Republicans in order to give the general a chance to “explain his vision for the campaign,” Gruber recalled.

Even if Clark’s staff was aware of the party affiliations, Gruber noted that the requests do not “make any sense” because the Republican lawmakers are not about to become stooges and appear at some sort of bipartisan summit with the general — and then give the candidate a chance to say that he could bridge the partisan divide as president.

Reached by telephone Monday at Clark’s office in Arkansas, Moody said she is a receptionist and could not talk to a reporter about any of the calls she may have made on the general’s behalf. She referred the request to Clark’s press office, which did not call back.

New Caucus. Fresh off helping introduce the band REM for the final set at this past weekend’s Austin City Limits Music Festival, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) is kicking off a new Songwriters Caucus tonight.

Doggett is hosting a mini-concert with freshman Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) tonight in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building to get their new caucus off on the right note. Blackburn previously served as executive director of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission.

The duo want to bring more attention to the people behind the hits who often get very little credit. In a “Dear Colleague” letter, Blackburn and Doggett noted that all of the accolades for “Heartbreak Hotel” went to Elvis Presley.

“However, this song was not written by Elvis but by a lady named Mae Axton, from Hendersonville, Tennessee,” wrote the lawmakers. “She and her songwriting partner, Tommy Durden, were looking at a newspaper in 1955 and noticed a suicide story about a man who killed himself and left a note with the line ‘I walk a lonely street.’”

Tonight’s event will feature a “guitar pull” with various songwriters singing some of the hits they wrote.

Among the voices to look for will be Liz Henberger, who wrote “For My Broken Heart,” which was a big hit for Reba McEntire; Gordon Kennedy and Wayne Kirkpatrick, who wrote “Change the World” for Eric Clapton; and Wayland Holyfield, whose “Can I Have This Dance” was a winner for Anne Murray in the flick “Urban Cowboy” some years ago.

Lobbying Onto the Field. While there were thousands of fans who went home disappointed after the Washington Redskins lost to the New York Giants in overtime on Sunday, GOP superlobbyist Jack Abramoff took the loss in stride.

That’s because his son, Daniel Abramoff, had the honor of having his name announced to the sellout crowd after serving as the “Kick-off Kid” for the game.

After the opening kickoff, young Abramoff ran onto the field and scooped up the kicking tee. He ran back off the field and down into the tunnel heading toward the Redskins’ locker room.

In childhood, like in lobbying, it certainly pays to have connections. Guess it didn’t hurt that the lobbyist has one of the priciest luxury boxes at FedEx Field?

Turned Off. Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, had just started to lift his arms to begin conducting the NSO’s season-opening concert that precedes a lavish black-tie ball.

But then a cellphone started ringing in the audience at the Kennedy Center.

Slatkin stopped his arms, wheeled around and arched an eyebrow. There was uneasiness in the packed crowd, which included the likes of Rep. Robert Matsui (D-Calif.), former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta and ber-lobbyists Ken Duberstein and Vernon Jordan.

The maestro turned back to his musicians and appeared ready to give it another go. But that pesky phone started buzzing again.

Slatkin turned back to the crowd one more time, and this time instructed the offender to tell the dialer to “call back in two hours.”

There was laughter all around, as the miscreant undoubtedly sunk deeper into his or her chair.

Power Restored — At Least On the Hill. D.C.-area schools may still be shut down because of the fallout from Hurricane Isabel, but the fundraising machine is still grinding on for both parties, particularly with key legislation like the Medicare prescription drug bill still up in the air.

Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a key member of the conference committee on the Medicare bill, held a Monday lunch fundraiser at The Monocle.

One Medicare lobbyist noted to HOH that while hundreds of thousands of D.C.-area folks still do not have electricity and found ways to skip out of many other events, some could not afford to sit out lunch with the powerful chairman.

“With great enthusiasm, K Street is marching over to The Monocle,” said the lobbyist. “No power, no problem.”

Ditto for Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), ranking member on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, who’s holding a Wednesday breakfast fundraiser at Bistro Bis that’s being sponsored by lobbying firm Fleischman and Walsh.

The firm just happens to be lobbying for Pepco Holdings Inc., the utility company frantically trying to restore power for D.C. residents and businesses. That was not lost on the folks at PoliticalMoneyLine.com, who mischievously sent out an e-mail alert noting, “Fundraising in the AM — No Lights Needed.”

Hurricane Paulitz. Chris Paulitz, spokesman for Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), wasn’t going to let little old Hurricane Isabel wreck his weekend plans.

Paulitz was plotting to take his girlfriend, Diane Czastkiewicz, to Harper’s Ferry, W.Va., last Thursday night so they could get engaged. He was going to pop the question at the bottom of the hill, the beautiful spot where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet.

Then they would ride off into the sunset — or at least point the car toward Columbus for Saturday’s football game between Ohio State, Paulitz’s alma mater, and Bowling Green.

But as the storm moved closer to the area, Paulitz had a vision of dropping to a knee and “screaming ‘Will you marry me?’ as I get washed down the river.”

So he made a command decision and bumped the big night up to Wednesday. He proposed, she answered in the affirmative and off they blissfully went to see the Buckeyes survive a thriller, 24-17.

“You could actually see the hurricane coming behind us, the clouds getting darker and darker, as we drove west,” Paulitz recalled.

The couple have not yet set a wedding date because Czastkiewicz is starting law school in the fall and justifiably has other things on her mind. She currently works at The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Paulitz returned to the D.C. area to find that his apartment had lost power for several days and his food had spoiled. But he noted, “I’m not married yet — so all I have in my fridge is eggs, cheese and Brita. So I’ll be absolutely fine throwing everything out.”

Happy Hensarling. Freshman Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) is celebrating the birth of his second child, a boy who was born on Friday morning.

Melissa Hensarling gave birth to Travis Jeb Hensarling, who weighed in at 8 pounds and 11 ounces.

Only a politician like Hensarling would note in the press release announcing the birth that his first child, Claire Suzanne, was born “just 13 days before the 2002 Republican primary.”