Le Speaker

Posted September 13, 2004 at 6:47pm

A little family lineage goes a long way. Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who is of Luxembourger descent, is slated to receive that country’s highest national order during a ceremony this evening at Luxembourg’s Washington embassy. Hastert will be decorated with a medal known as the Grand-Croix de l’Ordre de la Couronne de Chene, so named for the country’s abundance of oak trees.

Despite engaging in his share of Eurobashing, Hastert is receiving the medal, among other reasons, “to recognize him as the most famous American of Luxembourg decent,” according an embassy spokeswoman. Hastert’s great grandfather, Christian Hastert, was from Osweiler, Luxembourg.

One cynical Democratic aide, Andrew Kauders, spokesman for House Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.), heard about the ceremony and couldn’t help but laugh. “I can already hear a die-hard Republican in the Longworth deli saying, “I’d like an order of Freedom Fries with a side of the Grand-Croix de l’Ordre de la Couronne de Chene.”

Tellygate. Steve Kramer, a political operative who specializes in telephone get-out-the-vote efforts has been trying to collect money from one of his former clients for over a year. This past weekend, Kramer, a veteran national, state and local consultant, finally snapped. Fed up with trying to collect the money he says he’s owed by a local New York candidate, Kramer did what he does best: He started dialing, like a mad man.

Kramer tape-recorded an unflattering message saying that Pedro Espada, a former New York state Senator, has yet to fully pay him for the last round of automated get-out-the-vote calls Kramer did for Espada when the politician ran for City Council last year. The message was sent to hundreds of people in New York over the weekend.

HOH — along with some New York reporters — was on the lucky call list. “Hello, my name is Steve Kramer,” the message began politely, explaining that Kramer worked for Espada last year. The tone of the message quickly shifted to “Luckily, he was not successful.” Indeed, Espada lost his city council bid and is now running to reclaim his old seat in the state legislature.

In his automated message, Kramer explained that a year later, he has not been paid by Espada and that others have had the same experience. “In fact, the Bronx District Attorney’s office and the FBI are both currently investigating Pedro Espada, as you may have read in all of New York city’s newspapers.” (Indeed, major New York newspapers have reported that Espada has been investigated by local and federal officials. And the Bronx District Attorney’s office confirmed to HOH that the published accounts are accurate.)

Kramer says Espada has not returned any of his phone calls over the past year seeking payment of more than $1,200. Espada didn’t return any of the calls HOH placed to him, either.

Kramer, in his automated message, urged recipients to call the Bronx District Attorney’s office if they have any further information on “Espada’s ongoing shenanigans.” He gave out the D.A.’s phone number twice. And the message ended with a warning: “Stop Pedro Espada before he pulls a fast one on you.”

The phone message went to 1,000 voters in Espada’s precinct. Another 800 messages went to “everybody who’s anybody in New York state politics,” Kramer told HOH.

Yikes. Note to candidates: If you’re going to stiff an employee, make sure it isn’t the guy who has access to massive banks of telephone numbers and e-mail addresses!

Family Feud, Brooklyn Style. Another lesson being taught in New York this week: Watch your back if you endorse the primary challenger to an incumbent Democratic Congressman. Especially if you live in Brooklyn.

Tracy Boyland, the daughter of a prominent black political family in Brooklyn, is challenging Rep. Major Owens (D) in today’s primary. The Owens family wasn’t amused by the Boylands’ competitive spirit. So Congressman Owens enlisted his pal, Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), to endorse the challenger to incumbent New York State Assemblyman William Boyland Jr., Tracy Boyland’s brother.

It is highly unusual for incumbents to support challengers against other incumbents. But the Owens are mad. As Chris Owens, the Congressman’s son and campaign manager, put it, Towns — aka “the Endorser” — “understands the need for new leadership and that the Boyland family is no longer able to provide that leadership because of their bad political judgment.”

“It’s bad political judgment to have their daughter take on an incumbent elected leader,” Chris Owens said.

William Boyland Jr. told HOH he was surprised to hear that Towns had endorsed his primary challenger. “It’s news to me,” he said, suggesting that HOH was in error. But Andrew Delia, a spokesman for Towns, confirmed that Towns “did endorse” Bowman to defeat William Boyland Jr. for State Assembly.

Boyland said he would not characterize his family’s problems with Major Owens’ clan as a “feud.” However, he said, the Boyland family surely didn’t appreciate it when “the Owens camp tried to pull the wool over [everyone’s] eyes” when Rep. Owens announced this would be his last term in office. The Boylands claim the Owenses are backhandedly trying to reserve the seat for Chris Owens in 2006. (And Chris Owens has announced he will run for his dad’s seat in two years.)

So the Boylands want to yank the seat out from under Congressman Owens before his son ever gets a shot at running. Tracy Boyland, Assemblyman William Boyland Jr.’s sister, will do her best to knock off Owens in today’s primary.

Hooverville. The Kerry camp — busy as bees in a newfangled attack mode, trying to dig up dirt on the Bush campaign — noticed that a descendant of Herbert Hoover, who presided over the Great Depression, works for President Bush.

Hoover’s great granddaughter Margaret Hoover, who sounded very nice when HOH contacted her, works for the Bush administration in the Office of Management and Budget. Democrats have pointed out that Bush is the second president in history, after Hoover, to preside over job losses during his first term.

“We always thought that there was a philosophical link between Hoover and Bush,” Kerry spokesman Joe Lockhart told HOH. “Now we know there is a genetic link too.”

Please send your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments to hoh@rollcall.com.