House Republican leaders were patting themselves on the back Thursday for their great acumen in rushing through legislation, by a 412-to-8 margin, to let the national Do Not Call list move forward in order to stop annoying telemarketers.
But it turns out that one of the GOP leadership’s close corporate pals, InfoCision Management Corp., was among the companies filing the lawsuit that halted the Federal Trade Commission’s crackdown on solicitors in the first place.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, chaired by Rep. Tom Reynolds (N.Y.), has doled out a whopping $30 million in this election cycle to InfoCision, a telemarketing giant helping the GOP with its fundraising.
InfoCision filed suit along with four other telemarketers in Oklahoma City to stop the FTC action. U.S. District Judge Lee West ruled last week that the FTC had indeed overstepped its bounds, leading to the hasty action in the House and Senate to pass legislation backing the FTC.
Greg Speed, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, charged that Republicans are trying to have it both ways by pouring big money into “America’s favorite right-wing telemarketer” and then claiming to consumers that the GOP is beating back the solicitors.
“House Republicans who claim to support the Do Not Call list should explain why their campaign committee has given $30 million to the very telemarketers suing to continue harassing people at home,” Speed cracked.
“It’s bad enough that Tom Reynolds and House Republicans won’t give families a child tax credit,” he added. “Now the NRCC has helped telemarketers interrupt family dinners again.”
NRCC spokesman Carl Forti, however, shot back that Democrats are the ones talking out of both sides of their mouths.
“It’s very hypocritical for them to be critical of Republicans when this was a bipartisan bill and both [party] committees engage in telemarketing,” Forti said.
Forti noted that the NRCC’s $30 million effort has netted 230,000 new small donors for the GOP, while the Democrats’ harvesting has brought in just 33,000 new contributors.
“It’s just pure jealousy,” he said of the carping.
Blowback for Brownback. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) found out last week that sometimes a picture can represent — or at least spark — 323 words.
That’s how many words The Wichita Eagle devoted to the dustup over Roll Call’s front-page photo of the Senator autographing photos of himself. Brownback was scribbling away while the Appropriations Committee heard critical testimony from Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, about the $87 billion supplemental bill.
The photo by Roll Call lensman Tom Williams was e-mailed around by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee with the headline “Shameless” above the shot of Brownback, who’s up for re-election.
Brownback spokesman Aaron Groote trotted out ole’ Hurricane Isabel to spin his way out of this episode, which was also referred to obliquely in a biting New York Times editorial about how lawmakers need to pay close attention to this debate.
Groote told the Kansas paper that the storm had forced the cancellation of the Senator’s meeting in D.C. with a group of constituents, so he used some down time during the hearing to sign 10 photos for the folks back home to make them feel better.
“Senator Brownback always,” Groote said, “tries to go the extra mile for Kansas.”
Chuck Knapp, spokesman for Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), probably helped by adding that he was certain the Senator is “intelligent enough to sign his name and listen at the same time.”
Arrested Development. There was one light moment when a man was arrested Thursday for interrupting Bremer’s testimony during the day’s big Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
Jessica Gissubel, spokeswoman for the Capitol Police, said the man is a “known nuisance” who regularly gets hit with a charge of disruption of Congress at various hearings and other events around Capitol Hill.
“He appears to have an issue, but we’re not necessarily sure what it’s directed at,” she said. “We don’t necessarily believe that it’s just the war.”
But he did at least flash a bit of a sense of humor as police officers slid the cuffs on him.
“You can’t arrest me!” he shouted. “I’m talking to the chairman!”
Coveted Roll Call Cup. All of the drama and pageantry of Member golf will be on display once again today in Roll Call’s Second Annual First Tee Congressional Challenge.
The Ryder Cup-style event at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md., pits 10 House Democrats against 10 House Republicans in a grudge match that the lawmakers take very, very seriously.
Reps. Chris John (D-La.) and Mike Oxley (R-Ohio), captains of their party’s respective squads, did their best imitations of golf coaches — and even engaged in just a wee bit of trash talking as they geared up for today’s tournament.
“We may not be as talented as our Republican colleagues,” John said. “But we are more competitive than them. My guys are really focused in.”
John said that scrappiness — and quiet confidence — led his squad to fall just one point short in last year’s tourney.
“We were the underdogs in everyone’s minds but our own,” he said, predicting that his squad will win the coveted Roll Call Cup this year.
After having John’s underdog comments read to him, Oxley just chortled cryptically, “That statement was the right statement — but for the wrong year.”
When pressed to explain, he said with a hint of slyness, “I’m not going to elaborate.”
The tournament will feature two-on-two matchups in the morning followed by one-on-one competition in the afternoon. Last year’s event went down to the wire, when Rep. Jim McCrery (La.) sunk a long putt on the 18th green to seal the GOP’s victory.
There have only been minor changes from last year’s squads. The GOP lost Rep. Ernie Fletcher (Ky.), who’s running for governor and is a 17 handicapper.
That has the Democrats fretting because Fletcher was replaced with freshman Rep. Chris Chocola (Ind.), who’s a scratch golfer. “Chocola is a plus one,” John said. “He’s their best golfer.”
The GOP has also added Rep. Jim Ryun (Kan.) because Rep. Zach Wamp (Tenn.) couldn’t make it. The Democrats have subbed Rep. Stephen Lynch (Mass.) in for Rep. Ron Kind (Wis.).
Here are the foursomes for this morning: Oxley and Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) will square off with Democratic Reps. Xavier Becerra (Calif.) and James Clyburn (S.C.); GOP Reps. Steve Buyer (Ind.) and McCrery will do battle with Democratic Reps. Mark Udall (Colo.) and Bart Stupak (Mich.); and GOP Reps. John Boehner (Ohio) and Ander Crenshaw (Fla.) will take on John and Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas).
GOP Reps. Mike Ferguson (N.J.) and Mike Simpson (Idaho) will challenge Democratic Reps. John Tanner (Tenn.) and Mike Doyle (Pa.), while Chocola and Ryun will face off against Democratic Reps. Joe Baca (Calif.) and Lynch.