No Garden Party

Posted April 21, 2004 at 6:41pm

Wanda Baucus, wife of Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), was arrested by the Metropolitan Police Department Wednesday for allegedly assaulting a woman during an altercation earlier this week in a parking lot in Northwest Washington.

Mrs. Baucus, 56, voluntarily turned herself in to police Wednesday afternoon and was charged with simple assault, a misdemeanor, according to Sgt. Joseph Gentile of the Metropolitan Police. She was arraigned in D.C. Superior Court and released on her own recognizance.

Baucus’ office released a short statement from the five-term Senator regarding his wife’s arrest: “There was a situation involving Wanda [Tuesday] night. We’re trying to sort it out, going through the proper channels. I stand by her 110 percent and she has my full support.”

The alleged assault took place at Johnson’s Flower and Garden Center on Van Ness Street just west of Wisconsin Avenue. Wanda Baucus was loading bags into her car when she got into an altercation with another customer.

“Some of the bags were placed behind another vehicle so that lady of that vehicle could not get out,” Gentile said. “Words were exchanged. At some point, Mrs. Baucus allegedly went up to the woman and assaulted her.”

Julian Radice of Johnson’s said the police were called right away, but that Mrs. Baucus had already left the scene when they arrived. She returned roughly 90 minutes later, Senator in tow, and was interviewed by the police. According to Radice, Sen. Baucus bolted when a local TV crew showed up.

In fighting the charges, she will be represented by David Schertler of the firm Coburn & Schertler. Schertler served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the District for 12 years, and is perhaps best known for his work on behalf of David Chang, who was convicted of giving illegal contributions to former Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.).

“[Wanda Baucus] did not strike her,” said Schertler. “There was no criminal assault.” Wanda Baucus’ next court date is May 10.

In unrelated news, Baucus’ office issued a press release Monday noting that he and fellow Montana Sen. Conrad Burns (R) had introduced a resolution that would designate Sept. 26 as “National Good Neighbor Day.”

One More Time. This is getting to be a regular thing with the endlessly embattled Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).

In the latest incident, Moran has formally apologized to a group of veterans he angrily kicked out of his Rayburn House Office Building office in early March after they came to lobby him on a constitutional amendment barring desecration of the American flag and other issues.

The veterans now join the Jewish community, an 8-year-old boy, and at least two of his Congressional colleagues as those who have had run-ins with Moran during his tenure in Congress. Moran has also been criticized for borrowing $25,000 from a lobbyist and then backing legislation benefiting that lobbyist’s client, as well as taking a $447,000 loan from a credit firm just days before agreeing to co-sponsor a bill supported by the company.

In an April 12 letter to Edwin Dentz, chairman of the National Legislative Council of the American Legion, Moran said he wanted “to apologize for my tone which your colleagues found objectionable during a recent visit to my office.” Moran added: “Again, rudeness is inexcusable and I also understand that it is more appropriate to act gently and solicitously toward everyone.”

The Virginia Democrat was responding to an earlier letter from Dentz in which he complained about Moran’s treatment of four of his colleagues. “In the more than 20 years I have been involved in legislative matters with the American Legion, I do not recall any of us being treated rudely by a Member of Congress,” Dentz wrote. “The gentlemen advised me that they had been unceremoniously ushered out of your outer office and into the hall by you with your upraised voice still disparaging what some of them had traveled many miles to do as volunteers.”

In an interview this week, Dentz said he was not satisfied with Moran’s “purported apology.”

“Jim apparently came barreling out of his office and he said, ‘It’s that damn flag amendment again,’ and he went into a tirade,” Dentz said. “I don’t know exactly what he did physically; he didn’t manhandle anybody. But he ushered them out of the office and into the hall, and he was still raising his voice in the hall when one of his aides came out and quieted him down. … They were quite shaken by the experience.”

Melissa Koloszar, Moran’s chief of staff, disputed part of Dentz’s version of the latest Moran flare-up.

“It wasn’t really quite like that,” Koloszar said. “They came into the office. It wasn’t a planning meeting or anything. … The topic Jim sensed they were coming in on was the flag-burning amendment, the constitutional amendment, which he feels has been made a higher priority than many of the other veterans’ issues that he thinks are more important.”

Koloszar added: “The Congressman had to run out to vote or go to another event, so he walked out with them. He wasn’t kicking them out. They were going out anyway.”

Koloszar also acknowledged that Moran “raised his voice. He wasn’t yelling at them — he was taking issue with the topic they came in on. I think there was a total misunderstanding. … I don’t think the Congressman thought he was that vigorous in his language to them.”

Moran’s letter to Dentz spelled out his efforts to seek billions in additional federal funding for veteran’s health care programs. It also noted that it was a “continuing source of frustration” that lawmakers who support the flag-burning amendment “are given a pass on other issues that I frankly believe are more important to veterans and their families.”

Back in the Fold? In a surprising move, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) gave $4,000 to the Bush-Cheney ’04 re-election campaign from his own leadership PAC, the New Republican Majority Fund, on March 1, according to campaign finance records on file with the Federal Election Commission.

Lott was forced out as Senate Majority Leader back in December 2002 after praising the late Sen. Strom Thurmond’s (R-S.C.) 1948 presidential campaign, which was based on a pro-segregation platform.

Lott’s comments, which were branded as racist by Democrats, set off a political struggle within the Republican Party. President Bush helped ensure Lott would be pushed aside when he called the Mississippi Republican’s words “offensive,” and senior African-American officials in the Bush administration refused to defend him publicly. Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) took over as Majority Leader, and many Senate insiders figured Lott would seek vengeance on the White House.

Lott, though, dismissed any suggestion that he’s still bitter over the Thurmond controversy. When asked why he gave to the Bush-Cheney campaign, Lott replied: “Why not? That’s who I’m for.”

Which caused one GOP insider to say, “There are miracles in this world.”

Address the Ball. Congress watchers can glean some real insight from a recent interview Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.) gave to Golf for Women magazine.

Bono is not just your average duffer. While she admits to a 28 handicap and says the best part of her game is “a sense of humor,” she is apparently devoted to improving her swing. She told Golf for Women: “Golf events are terrific for fundraising. They offer politicians an opportunity to share time with their supporters in a relaxed setting.”

But the following statement is even more illuminating: “Just the other day on the floor of the House, I was talking golf with my colleagues. The subject of golf always comes up. We talk about the shots that make us laugh the most.”

We always suspected it, but now the California Republican has confirmed it. Members are always talking about golf whenever they’re on the House floor. We’re on to you. Mr. Boehner!

Mark Preston and Paul Kane contributed to this report.