No Doubting Thomas

Posted April 7, 2004 at 6:50pm

What are the chances of someone else being the aggressor in a road rage incident involving Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.)?

Believe it or not, that was the case Friday, when a Hill staffer got busted for kicking in the right “front fender” of the chairman’s Silver Mercedes Benz SL 500 outside the Rayburn House Office Building garage.

The staffer, who was not named in the Capitol Police report obtained by HOH, was charged with destruction of property in the 9:15 a.m. incident. The fracas resulted in $3,000 worth of damage to Thomas’ vehicle.

There has been speculation that Thomas was honking his horn at the suspect, who was walking near the chairman’s car as the California lawmaker exited the garage. But police officials and Thomas’ office are being tight-lipped about the incident.

Drunk With Power. Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta and his wife, Heather, are reaching deep into the wine cellar to help raise big money for Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) presidential campaign.

“On May 12, we are having a tasting of wines from the years the Democrats were in the White House — 2000-1993, 1980-77, 1968-61 — to support Presidential Candidate John Kerry,” Podesta wrote in an e-mail to K Street insiders Wednesday. “I think you’ll agree that we could all use a glass of wine to take the edge off of this Administration.”

Urging colleagues to “Toast a New President,” Podesta is asking for a minimum of $250 per person for the event. RSVPs have to be sent to an appropriately named e-mail account: Drinks4Kerry@hotmail.com.

Fattah Flunked Spelling. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) is probably going to want to be a little more careful the next time he sends around a “Dear Colleague” letter on an education issue.

Fattah’s letter on Tuesday urging Members to support legislation helping poor children make the transition from high school to college had this headline: “DOES EVERY STUENT (sic) IN YOU (sic) DISTRICT HAVE A SHOT A (sic) COLLEGE?”

Fattah spokeswoman Debra Anderson told HOH that the office was sorry about the mistake.

“The proper editing procedures were not followed,” she said. “We’re going to make sure that everyone in the office knows how to use spell check.”

Fattah’s office resent a corrected version Wednesday, but with one problem. The title this time was: “DOES EVERY STUDENT IN YOUR DISTRICT HAVE A SHOT A (sic) COLLEGE?”

Senate Breakfast Club. Do the waiters in the elite Senate Dining Room place secret wagers twice a week on which lawmaker will turn up first for breakfast?

That was the claim made when author Brad Meltzer recently appeared on the raucous “Elliot in the Morning” radio program to hawk his best-selling novel, “The Zero Game,” which centers on a wager among Congressional staffers that goes awry.

An anonymous caller identifying himself as an employee of the Senate Dining Room phoned in to the program on DC 101-FM to claim that the waiters bet on which Senator will show first in the morning — and sometimes place wagers on how many votes a particular piece of legislation will get.

Meltzer told HOH that such stories “have been coming out of the woodwork” from Hill staffers and other federal employees since his book was published. He even received an e-mail from a group of guys at one government agency who play a game they’ve dubbed “Fantasy State Budgeting.”

Modeled after “Fantasy Football” or “Fantasy Baseball,” where individuals get to serve as general manager of a team, the staffers hold a “mock draft” in which they pick five American states apiece. The fellow whose states raise taxes the least ends up winning the pot.

But do the Senate waiters really place breakfast bets? “I haven’t heard anything about it,” one waiter told HOH Wednesday, though this is not exactly the sort of thing that would be easily confessed to a reporter.

After all, the waiter had a pretty quick answer when queried on which Senator tends to show up first: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

Must be those farmer’s hours he keeps.

Pelosi’s Passion. To hear House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tell it, women are still drawing the short straw in Hollywood.

At the end of a roundtable discussion with radio reporters last Friday, Chad Pergram of Public Radio International asked Pelosi if she had seen “The Passion of the Christ” yet.

Pelosi said no and asked Pergram what he thought of it. He gave it a thumbs-up but found it interesting that a woman was cast as Satan.

“They would portray the Devil as a woman, wouldn’t they,” Pelosi chuckled.

At least Pelosi can take solace in the fact that her leadership Web site yesterday won third place in the Internet/electronic media category of the American Association of Political Consultants’ annual “Pollie” Awards.

Putting On the Ritz. For the couple who have everything and are certain their guy is going to win the White House, the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Washington is offering a stunning $150,000 presidential package for next year’s inauguration.

The four-night package will commence for the lucky couple when a personal butler will show up at their home to pack their belongings in a new $20,000 set of Louis Vuitton luggage.

Then the couple will fly via private jet from anywhere in America to D.C., where a 24-hour on-call chauffeur and butler will meet them. There will also be a Hermes tie and scarf for each person on the spot (a new set will arrive every month until the following inauguration).

There will also be lifetime membership for two at the luxurious Sports Club/LA and Splash Spa at the hotel. And don’t forget the personal massage therapist on call for all four days of the festivities, offering a choice of Thai, Balinese, Chinese, Japanese or Swedish massage.

Of course, there will be butler-drawn baths, personalized Pratesi bathrobes and sheets, two seats at the inaugural parade, two tickets to one of the official inaugural balls, a 25-person Cristal champagne and Beluga caviar reception and two weekend stays per year until inauguration 2009.

For the couple looking to shell out a little less dough, the historic Ritz-Carlton in Boston will be throwing together some less expensive amenities for the Democratic National Convention this summer. The presidential suite there will be featuring framed photos and duplicates of presidential documents from the nearby John F. Kennedy Library.

The hotel’s grand dining room, meanwhile, will be offering special after-dinner treats: Kerry Berry Cobbler and Governor Dean’s I Scream Dessert. And there will be no need to try to lift the towels as a souvenir: Hotel guests will be able to take home pillowcases in red, white and blue embroidered with a special inscription.

Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.