Money Bags

Posted February 27, 2004 at 6:01pm

If images are everything in presidential politics, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) probably wishes he used a different charter company to take him from Cleveland to Toledo for a speech last week in which he attacked President Bush’s economic performance.

CNN ran footage all day Wednesday of Kerry, eager to shed his image of being an aloof rich guy, stopping at the top of the deplaning stairway to wave to supporters as he boarded the plane.

Right below Kerry, emblazoned on the staircase in huge letters, was the name of the charter company: Million Air.

“We thought Million Air was the name of his yacht,” RNC spokeswoman Christine Iverson cracked to HOH.

Kerry’s campaign declined to comment on the image.

Iverson insists that her shop has no plans to purchase a copy of the photo. But HOH has a hunch that a conservative group somewhere just might be purchasing it.

Blue Collar, First Class Seat. When Commerce Secretary Don Evans spotted Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) on a flight from D.C. to Detroit last Thursday night, the irony was just too delicious.

Earlier in the day, HOH had reported that Dingell fired off a wisecracking letter to the White House recommending that Mayor McCheese of McDonald’s fame serve as Evans’ assistant secretary for manufacturing. Dingell was tweaking the administration for its recent suggestion that burger-flipping positions might qualify as manufacturing jobs.

After noticing Dingell was on the same flight, Evans wanted to walk up and good-naturedly respond. But the secretary, who was heading to a town hall meeting with manufacturers, couldn’t get to Dingell.

The reason? Evans was sitting in coach while Dingell, the man standing tall for those manufacturing workers, was in first class.

“It looks like only Burger Kings get to fly first class,” cracked one GOP observer. “And the American taxpaper has gotten hamburglared by the other side.”

In fairness to Dingell, he got an upgrade to first class because of his frequent flights to Michigan. Nevertheless, he fired back at Evans.

“Secretary Evans is a first-class guy working for an administration that has relegated manufacturers to coach-class treatment,” Dingell told HOH. “This administration should be paying attention to things that matter, like the 163,000 Michigan jobs that have flown across U.S. borders — or the yet-to-be-filled manufacturing czar position. It was promised six months ago, but it appears to be on McStandby.”

Footnote: House Democrats are not the only folks who get shown up by the Cabinet. On a flight from Florida to D.C. last Tuesday, Rep. Clay Shaw (R-Fla.) was spotted in first class, while Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson was back in coach. Shaw had a coupon upgrade, so the taxpayers didn’t foot the bill for first class.

Boozman Redux. It appears that the pen is mightier than the porn — at least when it comes to the saga of Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark.), who was irate about the fact that a gay porn site had recently taken over the domain name “boozmanforcongress.com.”

Boozman had been trying in vain to get lawyers to shut down the offending site, which was offering surfers live shows of the “hottest studs on the Internet” for a price.

But when HOH reported the problem last week, it sparked an Arkansas reporter, Alison Vekshin of the Stephens Media Group, to track down the owner of the site, Cincinnati businessman Mark Hanna. Hanna insisted he did not know that someone named Boozman was actually running for re-election to Congress and meant the Congressman no political harm, so he immediately disabled the Web site.

So the site was just a dirty trick — so to speak — not a political dirty trick. Hanna’s company had merely scooped up the site from a random list of expired domain names.

“While this isn’t exactly the kind of press one would covet, Congressman Boozman is very grateful that HOH’s interest and Alison’s investigative skills helped resolve this matter,” said Boozman spokesman Patrick Creamer.

To prevent another debacle, Boozman has decided to buy a bunch of other domain names that have his surname just in case.

Democratic Hypocrisy? Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Texas), who has demanded that Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) resign over controversial comments, is accusing House Democratic leaders of employing a double standard on the issue of race.

“Where is the outrage? It is appalling that someone at this level of government would use racist language and not answer for it,” said Bonilla. “Leaders of the Democrat Party, Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus must address this issue.”

There was a widespread refusal to comment when HOH tried to get reaction last week from aides to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas) and Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

Brown kicked off the firestorm at a Wednesday night meeting of the Florida delegation in which she labeled a Mexican-American Bush official and two Hispanic lawmakers a bunch of “white men” who “all look the same” and are pushing a “racist” policy regarding Haiti.

The Congresswoman directed her comments at State Department official Roger Noriega, who was briefing the delegation on the perilous situation in Haiti. Republicans in the room charged that Brown also appeared to be referring to a pair of Hispanic Members from Florida, Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R).

Brown confirmed her comments to HOH in a telephone interview Wednesday night. The lawmaker stressed that she was only referring to Noriega and his deputies: “I wasn’t even talking about Lincoln or what’s the other one’s name?”

After reading Brown’s comments on RollCall.com, Bonilla demanded his colleague’s resignation. After initially refusing to apologize, Brown did send a letter of apology to Noriega in which she reiterated that she believes Bush is employing a “racist” policy that hurts the Haitian people.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) issued a press release calling Brown’s comments “downright deplorable” and said it was “shameful” for Democratic leaders to remain quiet.

And just in case nobody realized the potential political gain Republicans see with Hispanic voters, Reynolds (who probably doesn’t know much Spanish) released a bilingual version of the press statement: “Los comentarios de la congresista Brown son realmente deplorables. Lo que es aún más vergonzoso es el silencio del liderazgo demócrata sobre este tema. Comentarios tan repugnantes, desconsiderados y racistas no tienen sitio ni en el Congreso de los Estados Unidos, ni en nuestra sociedad.”

Funny Money? While Rosario Marin might be “right on the money,” as her campaign often boasts, Democrats believe the former U.S. treasurer is on the wrong side of federal money laws.

It seems Marin — whose signature was printed on U.S. greenbacks until she left her post to run for the GOP nod to take on Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) — has developed an interesting gimmick to raise her name recognition before Tuesday’s Republican primary.

According to a Los Angeles Times profile of the candidate last week, Marin has made it a “staple” of her campaign stops to break out $1 bills and sign her big, looping autograph on the money that already bears her name, a sort of double-autograph for would-be supporters. An aide told HOH that the candidate even carries a “special green pen” to do the signing.

Democrats say there’s just one little problem for the would-be Senator: Title 18, Section 333 of the U.S. Code, dealing with “defacement of currency.”

Perpetrators face up to $100 in fines or six months in prison, though Marin aide Kevin Spillane told HOH he’s not worried about the boss getting thrown behind bars. “You’re right — she’s a national security threat,” he said with a laugh.

In fact, the coast is clear for Marin: Treasury spokesman Rob Nichols said there has been a long-standing tradition of letting former department secretaries and ex-treasurers personally sign money that already has their name on it. “If someone wants Summers or Rubin or Bentsen or a former U.S. treasurer to sign the currency that bears their name, we’re OK with that,” said Nichols. (HOH figures they might go after ex-Secretary Paul O’Neill, but that’s another story.)

Spillane noted that Secret Service agents, whose own agency enforces the currency laws, often ask for the signature.

“It’s a petty attack, but they should get their facts straight,” Spillane said. “Democrats have been attacking us from day one. It’s always been a sign that Democrats are afraid that she would be the strongest candidate” to face Boxer.

See You in (My) Court. While at least one naysayer is suggesting his power has been diminished by last year’s failure to pass an energy bill, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) can take solace in the fact that a courthouse in New Mexico now bears his name.

It turns out that a tiny line in the omnibus spending bill that cruised through Congress designated that the federal courthouse in Albuquerque “shall be known and designated as the ‘Pete V. Domenici United States Courthouse’” to honor the chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

That was met with a bit of controversy back home, according to the blog written by New Mexico political consultant Joe Monahan. “A few months ago, when word circulated that Domenici was angling to get the building named after himself, friends of former NM Governor and federal judge Ed Mechem said Ed should get the honor first,” wrote Monahan. “After all, they argued, he’s already gone, and naming a building after a living person is not the norm.”

Monahan added that in the wake of the energy bill’s failure, “wags in New Mexico have been calling him ‘Senator Diminishi,’” so this may soften the blow.

But Domenici spokesman Matt Letourneau stressed to HOH that the honor was not Domenici’s idea. “The judges thought it would be nice to put his name on it,” he said.

Letourneau did note that the senior member of the Appropriations panel lined up the money for that very building and “also appointed many of those judges” at the courthouse — so, who knows, maybe that helped move things along.

Meanwhile, the spokesman scoffed at any suggestion that the chairman’s power has been shrinking, noting that Domenici has already been crafting a “leaner and meaner” energy bill that has a good chance of passing. “He’s just as active as ever,” Letourneau vowed.

Hamming It Up. Five evenings before Republican voters in Maryland’s 1st district were to pass judgment on his March 2 primary challenge to Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R), state Sen. Richard Colburn (R) was not in the district campaigning.

Instead, he was in the ballroom of an Annapolis hotel, attending a reception sponsored by the politicians, business leaders and academic institutions of Southern Maryland.

Now, to be fair, the Maryland Senate worked past 7 p.m. Thursday evening. But that still left enough time for Colburn to dash across the Bay Bridge and do some door-knocking on the Eastern Shore.

So sometime after 9 p.m., as he stood in front of a carving table piled high with the spicy stuffed ham that Southern Maryland is famous for, someone asked Colburn why he still wasn’t back home stumping.

“Free food,” the would-be Congressman replied.

He’s already getting the hang of the job.

Paul Kane and Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.