Whodunit?

Posted June 21, 2005 at 7:02pm

An HOH exclusive about Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) skipping the International Relations Committee’s most important vote of the year to play golf is now turning into something of a mystery thriller.

Someone — we know not who — Xeroxed many, many copies of HOH’s column about Burton’s golf outing and mass-mailed it to lobbyists all over town, presumably to embarrass Burton, who, despite his apparent penchant for golfing over legislating, would like to become the committee’s next chairman. [IMGCAP(1)]

One GOP lobbyist who received the anonymous letter said: “Someone went to great lengths to take your article and trash the crap out of Burton.” The lobbyist, who asked to remain anonymous, added, “I have never seen anything like this in the 30 years that I’ve been here.”

The mystery Xeroxer copied the June 9 HOH column onto white paper, complete with a Roll Call logo, and mailed it to seemingly every registered lobbyist in Washington, D.C. The column arrived at lobbyists’ offices in a blank envelope with the phony return address: 1 Square, Washington, D.C. 2008 (a four-digit zip code). Many of the postmarks were scribbled out. But at least one of them came from Dulles, Va.

No note was attached — only a copy of the column, which reported that Burton missed the committee’s crucial vote on the U.N. Reform Act of 2005 in order to play in the Booz Allen Hamilton pro-am golf tourney at Congressional Country Club. The bill was the crowning achievement of retiring International Relations Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), and as Hyde scrounged for every vote he could get, Burton was on the golf course, paired with the world’s No. 1 golfer, Vijay Singh, Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.), former Rep. (and now lobbyist) Marty Russo (D-Ill.) and Tony Russo.

Lobbyists who received the anonymous mailing all agreed on why the letter was sent: to make Burton look bad. But the “who” remains a mystery. “I’m sure there have been many other occurrences over the years in which an outside recreational event interfered with a Member’s committee vote, but I’ve never seen anyone attacked so viciously for it,” said a Democratic lobbyist who received the anonymous letter.

“If it was done purely to make him look bad, someone really has an ax to grind,” another GOP lobbyist said.

Hyde’s office denied any knowledge or involvement of the mass mailing. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who has expressed interest in chairing the committee, said she had nothing to do with the mass mailing either. “Neither the Congresswoman, anyone she knows nor any member of our staff has had anything to do with the circulation of your article,” Ros-Lehtinen spokesman Alex Cruz told HOH.

Dan Morgan, president of Morgan, Meredith and Associates, who does fundraising work for Ros-Lehtinen, questioned whether it was perhaps the work of a member of the International Relations Committee who is hoping to “sneak up on both” Burton and Ros-Lehtinen to make a run for chairman, assuming Republicans retain control of the House next year.

Morgan, who has handled internal leadership and chairmanship races in the past, said the negative blitz did not have the mark of a wise strategy for someone who wants to ascend to the chairmanship. “You try to organize your people downtown on your side. You don’t throw negatives out there,” Morgan said.

Republican Lyle Beckwith, a lobbyist with the National Association of Convenience Stores, said he found the anonymous mass mailing “sleazy” and “cheesy.”

“I mean, if you’re going to do something like that, at least have the guts to put your name on it,” Beckwith said. “It’s the non-attributable part of it … sent out anonymously that stinks.”

A Republican lobbyist went so far as to say the mailing made no sense whatsoever. It is the members of the committee, not lobbyists, who vote for chairman. “Maybe to hurt his fundraising efforts?” the lobbyist said, answering his own question.

HOH doesn’t understand the motivation either. Golfing — a bad thing among lobbyists? Please!

Terms of Endearment. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is making steady progress in paying back a long-term loan from New Age silver-screen diva Shirley MacLaine, according to the Ohio Democrat’s 2004 financial disclosure forms.

Kucinich now owes MacLaine “just over $15,000,” said Doug Gordon, a spokesman for Kucinich, who could not specify the exact amount of the original loan. The one-time “boy mayor of Cleveland” became very fast friends with MacLaine about 25 years ago. She loaned him the money about 20 years ago, Gordon says.

MacLaine, who won an Oscar in 1983 for her role as the matriarch in the tearjerker “Terms of Endearment,” is the godmother of Kucinich’s daughter, Jackie Kucinich, who is a reporter for The Hill newspaper.

Since coming to Washington, D.C., nearly a decade ago, two personal loans have shown up on Kucinich’s disclosures: one to MacLaine and another to Cleveland attorney James Carney Jr., to whom Kucinich owed between $15,001 and $50,000. Kucinich finished paying off his debt to Carney in 2002.

According to The Washington Post, Kucinich’s relationship with MacLaine, who is famous for her belief in reincarnation, led to studies at the Santa Fe-based Light Institute in the early 1980s, including a course on “multi-incarnational exploration.” The institute’s Web site includes taped discussions of the group’s founder, Chris Griscom, and MacLaine.

Kucinich has made a payment on the debt over the past year and will pay it off soon, says Gordon, adding winkingly: “Safe to say, the loan is from a past life.”

Jack Attack. You can take the Motion Picture Association of America out of the man, but apparently you can’t take the man out of the MPAA.

The headquarters building for the film and television industry’s lobbying arm will be renamed today in honor of Jack Valenti, who served as MPAA chairman for 38 years before retiring last year.

Valenti’s successor, former Rep. Dan Glickman (D-Kan.), and D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams (D) will unveil a 90-pound plaque for the front of the MPAA building.

The mammoth plaque caused much consternation during the planning of the unveiling. MPAA folks couldn’t find an easel strong enough to hold the thing. Building engineers reinforced an oak easel that they hope will hold the 28-by-36-inch plaque, which spokeswoman Gayle Osterberg says is a fitting tribute for “a long-time heavyweight both in Washington and Hollywood.”

Matthew Murray contributed to this report.

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