Ethics Bailout

Posted March 15, 2005 at 6:48pm

Tom DeLay, call Trent Lott. He’s got some money for you. As questions continued to swirl about the connections the House Majority Leader from Texas has to a former GOP lobbyist, Sen. Lott, a Mississippi Republican, revealed to a few reporters Tuesday that he wanted to go cut a check to his fellow Republican’s legal defense fund.

“Anything I can do to help,” he said.

In fact, Lott — who, like DeLay, was once the House GOP Whip — said he was happy to defend DeLay from the onslaught of ethics charges, noting that in his own personal time of crisis in December 2002, DeLay “called me as a friend.”

Lott, who is weeks away from publishing a book about his political career that will include an account of his fall from the Senate leadership in 2002, declined to say what DeLay told him at the time. But he did say he gave DeLay a warning.

“He called me after my debacle,” Lott recalled Tuesday. “And I said, ‘Tom, be careful, because you’re next.’”

Lott said DeLay, long a target of Democrats and their liberal allies, didn’t respond to his remark. “Because he knew it was true,” Lott said.

Lott was also critical of the media questioning surrounding DeLay and his relationship with former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who led an effort to charge a half-dozen American Indian tribal clients $82 million in just a few years, all the while bragging of his connections to DeLay and other Republican leaders.

The latest questions have focused on the cost and sponsorship of overseas trips that DeLay and other Members of Congress took, travel that was arranged by Abramoff or other DeLay associates.

Lott said the real problem was that DeLay was a strong conservative leader, making him a target — like Lott in December 2002 — to be “decapitated.”

“When you’re a conservative Republican in this town, you had better gird your loins,” Lott said.

Another Gannon? A non-credentialed reporter for a conservative news organization ruffled feathers at a news conference Tuesday by asking Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) about his war record (even though the election is over) and referring to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) as “ma’am” instead of Senator.

Don Hammond, the Washington bureau chief of the controversial Sinclair Broadcast Group, first asked Cantwell whether she’d agree to drill for oil anywhere, as the subject of the news conference was about drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. After Hammond continued calling Cantwell “ma’am,” Cantwell’s press secretary, Charla Neuman, went over and grabbed Hammond’s arm and said, “The next time you refer to Sen. Cantwell, it’s ‘Senator’ not ‘ma’am.’”

Hammond, without identifying himself, then directed his attention toward Kerry. He invoked a name that would surely get the Massachusetts Senator’s attention: Jerome Corsi, author of the anti-Kerry Swift Boat Veterans book that conservatives hail as a major factor in Kerry’s demise, who has said he plans to run against Kerry in the 2008 Senate race.

The question went something like, “Jerry Corsi announced recently that he’s trying to take your Senate seat. He’s been making some amazing accusations regarding your military career. Did you or did you not …” In midstream, Hammond was cut off by a loud chorus of booing from the crowd of mostly environmentalists.

After the news conference, which took place in the Russell Caucus Room, staffers approached Hammond, a reporter since 1979, demanding to see his Congressional press credentials. But he had none. “I thought I was going to be arrested or something,” Hammond told HOH.

Hammond said he is “in the process” of getting a credential from the Senate Radio-TV Gallery. A source said the gallery received an application from Hammond on Tuesday.

Kerry’s spokesman, David Wade, likened Hammond to the infamous White House reporter Jeff Gannon, aka James Guckert. “You could almost hear the black helicopters buzzing overhead as he fumbled to fake a question,” Wade told HOH. “While Mr. Hammond would make a perfectly fine salesman for tin-foil hats, he’s got some work to do before he tries to pass himself off as a reporter.”

Hammond told HOH that he has been trying for weeks to get an interview with Kerry but has been ignored by Wade. After he got “no results with David Wade, trying to be a nice guy,” he showed up at the news conference Tuesday.

Add a Little Keyes to Your Collection. Is your video library lacking that special something? Then visit the Alan Keyes media Web store! “This is your one-stop shop for purchasing all available Alan Keyes multimedia on the web,” Keyes’ brand new site proclaims.

Keyes is selling DVDs and VHS tapes of his Senate campaign debates against (the winner) Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for $20 a pop, or the complete set of three debates for $50. “Not since the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 have the moral issues of the day been deliberated upon at such an intense and impressive level,” if Keyes doesn’t say so himself.

But Keyes’ entrepreneurial spirit isn’t going over so well with copyrighted owners of those debate videos, including WTTW, Chicago’s major PBS affiliate, which sponsored the third and final debate between Obama and Keyes.

Mary Field, WTTW’s executive producer of news and public affairs, said the station is sending a letter to Keyes asking him to “cease and desist” selling tapes of the debate. “We own the copyright to the tape and he doesn’t have permission to sell it,” she told HOH.

Connie Hair, a spokeswoman for Keyes, said proceeds from the sale of the videos will cover “administrative costs” from the 2004 Senate campaign. HOH had to wonder whether Keyes was raising money to move his family back to Maryland and make a fourth stab at becoming a Senator.

But Hair insisted Keyes will not run to succeed the retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.). “This is not any kind of campaign run in Maryland,” she said.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said he “can’t imagine why anyone” would want to buy the debate videos. “For $50 you can get the videos, but for free you can figure out who won the election!” he said.

Myrick’s a Team Player. If you want to get tackled like a pro, walk on over to Rep. Sue Myrick’s (R-N.C.) office today. Her visiting intern for the next two days is Carolina Panthers safety Colin Branch.

“We’re hoping he’ll serve not only as an intern but as a body guard,” joked Andy Polk, the Congresswoman’s press secretary. Branch is visiting Myrick’s office as part of a Panthers’ program that provides continuing education to players about post-football careers. Since Branch, who graduated from Stanford University with a degree in public policy, is interested in politics, he chose to intern in his local Congresswoman’s office.

And he’s getting what he asked for. “We’re going to show him how to answer the phones and fax,” Polk said.

Paul Kane and Lauren W. Whittington contributed to this report.

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