Coburn vs. Ethics Panel, Redux.

Posted May 18, 2005 at 6:53pm

That upcoming program on sexually transmitted diseases sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is raising eyebrows over at the Senate Ethics Committee.

But it’s not because of the graphic content of the slide show, called (in an homage to the well-timed release of the final “Star Wars” movie) “Revenge of the STDs.” No, the problem is that Coburn was planning to have outside groups sponsor his seven-year-running STD blockbuster.[IMGCAP(1)]

There’s some history, of course: The famously prickly Coburn has been in a running battle with the Ethics panel over its dim view of his desire to continue treating patients back home in Oklahoma.

The Ethics panel’s concerns about the STD show seem to have irked Coburn, whose communications director, John Hart, sent out a snarky press release that took a jab at the Senate panel and clarified that Coburn will not allow outside groups to cover the cost of the pizza lunch he promised in his invitation.

Hart reminded recipients of the release that in the six years that Coburn showed his slide show on the House side, outside groups provided a free lunch to guests.

“The House Ethics Committee, which enforces a more stringent body of rules concerning outside sponsorship of events, never found fault with the sponsorship of Dr. Coburn’s slide show,” Hart wrote. “The Senate Ethics Committee staff, however, has concluded that Dr. Coburn is the actual sponsor of the event and should therefore be responsible for the costs of the pizza lunch. Dr. Coburn will submit to the staff directive.”

But here’s some good news: By reaching deep into his own pockets, Coburn will foot the bill for free pizza at the May 26 safe-sex slide-show extravaganza.

Viewer discretion is advised; strong stomachs are a plus.

Love Amid the Nuclear Ruins? We all know how downright toxic the atmosphere has gotten in the Senate over this “nuclear” business. Peace, love and understanding? Forget about it.

Amid such ugliness, HOH was flabbergasted to hear Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), while on the floor Wednesday lamenting the GOP’s attempt to reduce the number of votes needed to break judicial filibusters, profess what sounded to be love for Vice President Cheney.

We could have sworn that we heard Reid call Cheney his “lover” or his “paramour” or something to that effect and then quickly correct himself. Wacky! Was it a Freudian slip?

Since we hadn’t listened closely to the speech, we checked the transcript, which shows Reid saying: “We’re going to have Cheney, the vice president, come to where the presiding officer is sitting now and say it only takes 51” votes. Then Reid, still pointing at the chair where Cheney would be sitting, said, “This great paramour …”

That’s when HOH’s ears perked up. “Paramour” means lover, no?

Reid quickly corrected himself, saying, “That’s the wrong word — paragon of virtue is going to say that it only takes a simply majority.” Reid then continued his rant about the nuclear option (with the correct, un-Bush-like pronunciation) and moved on from the accidental lovey-dovey talk.

Cheney’s office would not comment on Reid’s slip of the tongue. (Shocker!) But Reid’s communications director, Jim Manley, assured HOH that Reid has no sublimated passion for the vice president.

“A mistress to virtue? Hmmmm,” Manley said. “Cheney has been called a lot of things, but I doubt paramour has ever been one of them.”

Having a Ball. What do Montanans automatically think of when they think of newborn calves? Why testicles, of course.

Sorry to horrify readers who aren’t familiar with the Big Sky delicacy, but a big batch of frozen calves’ testicles from the rugged high plains of central Montana arrived in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night.

Tonight they’ll be sliced. And tomorrow night they’ll be rolled in a beer batter, deep fried, and consumed by the fistfuls at the second annual Testicle Festival at the American Legion hall in Arlington, Va.

A group of Montanans living and working in Washington, D.C., had such great success with the bash last year, they decided to keep the ball(s) rolling. This year’s organizers include two aides to Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), who himself will be unable to attend the Testy Fest (as it’s known) because he’ll be back home in Montana.

One of the party planners, Lyndsey Medsker, who works for the PR firm Dezenhall Resources, said close to 400 people came to last year’s event. She suspects that as many or more will return this year for more yummy “Rocky Mountain Oysters,” which she said look like “little round medallions” and “like anything else, taste like chicken.”

The $10 admission charge, including unlimited beer, Crown Royal and Rocky Mountain Oysters, will help cover medical expenses for an 11-year-old boy in Lolo, Mont., who had a liver transplant last year. Plied with booze, skeptical first-timers will be encouraged to taste just one testicle.

Nelson the Flintstone. As the old saying goes, you can’t choose your family. In Sen. Ben Nelson’s case, he can’t pick his nicknames.

For his 64th birthday on Tuesday, the Nebraska Democrat was given yet another nickname, this time by fellow Nebraskan, Rep. Lee Terry (R).

At the Nebraska delegation breakfast meeting Tuesday morning, Terry, the emcee of the event, presented a cake with Nelson’s face on Superman’s body, then unveiled a shocking poster showing side-by side pictures of Fred Flintstone and Nelson. Few people before had ever realized that Ben Nelson is the living version of Fred Flintstone!

“Uncanny resemblance, wouldn’t you say?” cracked Terry’s spokeswoman, Jen Rae Hein.

Terry is now calling Nelson “Senator Nelstone.”

Goofy nicknames are becoming ubiquitous for Nelson. He was already given two by President Bush — “Nellie” and “The Benator.”

While Nelson took his new birthday nickname in stride at the breakfast, the Senator’s communications director, David DiMartino, said: “Nice try, Congressman Terry, but we prefer the two nicknames President Bush has given Sen. Nelson: ‘The Benator’ and ‘A man with which I can work, who puts partisanship aside to do what’s right for America.’”

DiMartino declined to say whether the Senator — or the Senator’s wife, for that matter — thinks he really looks like Fred Flintstone. HOH will let our readers decide.

New Arrival. Finally: A member of the Roll Call family who doesn’t yell at the editors, get drunk at office parties or demand a raise. This new edition is pure joy: Lisette Grace Graham, the beautiful newborn daughter of Roll Call photo editor Douglas Graham and his wife, Dawn.

Baby Lisette was born Monday afternoon, weighing in at a shade over 8 pounds. “Lisette looks like her Mom, which is a good thing,” joked the proud papa, who isn’t too shabby himself. Both baby and mama are doing fine.