Member’s Spouse: Graffiti Artist?

Posted May 20, 2005 at 6:40pm

As Uncle Ben told Peter Parker in “Spider- Man,” “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Maybe that’s what Vicki Tiahrt, president of the Congressional spouses’ club, officially known as the Congressional Club, was thinking when she tried to have signs posted by the Blue Dog Coalition removed from a hallway in the Cannon House Office Building. [IMGCAP(1)]

The signs display the national debt and are updated each morning and placed in the hallways outside the offices of Blue Dog members. One recent afternoon, the press secretary to Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D-S.D.) spotted a woman wielding a pen scrawling, “Please Remove!” on one of the national debt signs.

The press secretary, Russ Levsen, asked the woman what she was doing. According to a senior aide to Herseth, the woman replied, “I’m the wife of a Member of Congress. You shouldn’t be using your official funds for these kinds of things.”

The woman identified herself as Vicki Tiahrt, wife of Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), and suggested that Herseth’s office was violating House ethics rules by using taxpayer funds to display the national debt signs, which Mrs. Tiahrt demanded be “taken down immediately,” the Herseth aide told HOH.

Perhaps more than the famous Spider Man line, Mrs. Tiahrt was thinking of Tammy Wynette’s famous words: “Stand by your man.” Because it turns out, she was only defending her man.

Tiahrt’s spokesman, Chuck Knapp, confirmed that the Congressman’s wife did write “in small letters: ‘please remove’” on Herseth’s national debt sign — but only because the Congressman once had wanted to hang a different sign outside his own office and was told by the House Administration Committee that he could not.

“She wondered why there was a double standard,” Knapp said.

He said the Congressman’s wife had a “verbal confrontation” with Congresswoman Herseth’s aide, which Knapp said Mrs. Tiahrt described as “disrespectful.”

“She wasn’t going to make a big deal about it,” he said, “but obviously they’ve chosen to.” In fact, Knapp pointed out, Congressman Tiahrt is from South Dakota. Tiahrt’s parents are Herseth’s constituents.

“Mr. Tiahrt is a native of South Dakota so he loves all South Dakotans. That may change,” he joked (sort of).

Eric Wortman, the spokesman for the Blue Dog Coalition, said the public has a right to know what the deficit is. And he noted that the signs are not disparaging of Republicans or President Bush or anything else. But, he said, if it will make the Tiahrts feel any better, his boss, Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), “would be happy to provide” them with a Blue Dog sign on the debt.

What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate. Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.) is having a bad time lately.

Millender-McDonald recently had what her aides described as “major surgery” and was at home recuperating last week. The House Administration Committee, of which Millender-McDonald is the ranking member, postponed a May 19 mark-up of campaign-finance legislation due to her absence.

But there are some who question what exactly is going on with the six-term lawmaker.

The California Democrat’s staff originally said that her surgery was performed last week, although it actually took place the previous week. Shirley Cooks, Millender-McDonald’s chief of staff, said she did not know what type of surgery her boss had.

It also turns out that Millender-McDonald’s son, R. Keith McDonald, is supposed to surrender himself to federal authorities today to begin serving a 41-month prison sentence, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California.

McDonald was convicted last October on 10 federal corruption charges, including bribery, extortion, conspiracy, money laundering and mail fraud. McDonald will serve his sentence in the federal penitentiary in Lompoc, Calif., a minimum-security facility.

How fitting that Lompoc is famous for its wildflowers.

Miranda Rights. Manuel “Manny” Miranda, the former GOP Senate aide who was ousted after improperly accessing Democratic files at the Senate Judiciary Committee, still has it out for Democrats — especially for Democrats who have it out for him.

In the most recent of his regular e-mail missives to journalists, Miranda did more than express outrage at Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, for criticizing Miranda by name on the Senate floor Thursday night: Miranda outright challenged Durbin to a fight, man to man — perhaps in their underwear, but certainly in an alley.

“He said things about me that were, true to form, not true. [Sen.] Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) once told me that Durbin was the most insipid man in the Senate. That is kind,” Miranda wrote.

(HOH did not ask Hatch whether he truly believes his Democratic friend from Illinois is the most insipid man in the Senate.)

“He is a man with no decency or sense of justice. I only wish that he [would] repeat those words off the Hill or meet me in an alley,” Miranda continued. “But he is a little man.”

Miranda, now chairman of the National Coalition to End Judicial Filibusters, did not specify in which alley he’d like Durbin to meet him. There are many on Capitol Hill.

Miranda said in his e-mail to journalists that he was “not angry.” To the contrary, he said, “I have placed myself in the center of God’s will so I cannot complain for myself … Not that anger is a bad thing. St. Augustine calls Anger and Courage the daughters of Hope.”

Miranda said Durbin must have attacked him on the floor out of fear that the still unpublished Democratic memos and files from the Judiciary Committee will, if and when they come to light, show “corruption and crimes much worse than merely blocking [the judicial nomination of] Miguel Estrada because ‘he is Latino.’”

Durbin’s office responded to Miranda’s vindictive e-mail with much eye rolling. Implying that groups like Miranda’s are helping Republicans craft their message on the judicial filibuster debate, Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker said, “You have to wonder why [Senate Majority Leader Bill] Frist [R-Tenn.] would tolerate somebody like this still trying to call the shots.”

“Manny Miranda has gone from two-bit crook to first-class loony,” Shoemaker added.

Miranda, who, despite a year-long investigation by a federal prosecutor has not been charged with any crime, also ticked off a staffer in Minority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office recently after he accused Mormons of being racist. The e-mail to journalists bounced around the Hill and reached the inbox of Tessa Hafen, an aide in Reid’s communications “war room,” who, like her boss, is Mormon. Let’s just say the e-mail was not received warmly.

Hafen, using her personal e-mail account, wrote back to Miranda saying, “Your comments referencing the Church and Sen. Reid are appalling. There isn’t enough irony in the world for you to call someone a ‘disgrace.’ I can’t imagine who you are to think you can speak about the LDS (Latter-day Saints) Church. Your past actions of dishonor and shame make any criticism of others shear hypocrisy; and for you to invoke religion is beyond the pale.”

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