Platypus Plea

Posted March 26, 2007 at 6:36pm

The folks on Rep. Sam Farr’s (D-Calif.) staff are in a bit of a conundrum. Their new office mascot, a platypus-shaped doorstop/bootbrush, is without a name. [IMGCAP(1)]

Devoid of inspiration to christen the multitasking creature, Farr’s folks are making an appeal to ever-clever HOH readers to help them. Here’s the poignant platypus’ tale: An Australian intern who worked in Farr’s office sent her former colleagues a thank-you gift after returning home to the land Down Under. The platypus has become a favorite among the Farr people, who are proud of the odd-looking fella propping open the door of their Longworth digs.

“Even the Congressman gets a big kick out of it,” says spokeswoman Jessica Schafer.

Sadly, though, it has remained without a name since taking up residence in the House office building last week, and Farr’s staff is appealing to HOH readers’ razor-sharp wits to help them name their poor pet.

Schafer asks that the name be “respectful of the platypus’ origin” — after all, it is an iconic Australian creature. And names can either be male or female, since Schafer confessed she isn’t sure which gender their new little friend is (and HOH is not going to quibble about platypus anatomy). Send your best suggestions to Jessica.Schafer@mail.house.gov.

The prize? The fame and glory of naming a not-exactly official Congressional mascot, of course. What did you expect, a toaster oven?

Rev. and Rep. Murtha. The White House’s announcement on Monday that President Bush would be giving the commencement address at Saint Vincent College means that Bush will be treading on the turf of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the perennial fly in POTUS’ Iraq ointment.

Murtha’s district includes Latrobe, where the school is located. And a college spokesman tells HOH the Congressman has been invited to the graduation ceremonies, too. As if those goofy gowns and hats weren’t embarrassing enough, wouldn’t that make for an awkward meeting?

The spokesman says Murtha was invited as a guest — not as another speaker.

The college has more Murtha connections, including the Rev. John F. Murtha, a second cousin of the Congressman, who was president of the Catholic institution from 1985 to 1995. But Bush has connections to the college’s current prez, Jim Towey, who once headed Bush’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Lunch Date. Maybe the coffee’s just really, really good. Actor and former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) was spotted on Monday having lunch at the Mayflower Hotel with none other than former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). The two lingered over their meal for nearly two hours, an HOH tipster says. And they were apparently discussing presidential politics, we hear.

Frist has been a big booster of pal Thompson, who’s been flirting with a run for the GOP presidential nomination. And as the will-he-or-won’t-he buzz swirls around the movie and TV star, HOH wants to know: Just how good is that Mayflower chow?

Salad Daze Redux. The guacamole is still flying over last week’s procedural change to the House cafeteria’s weekly Wednesday Taco Salad Day. HOH reported that patrons were in an uproar over a new form salad-seekers had to fill out to choose toppings for their taco-licious plates.

House Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard, who oversees the chamber’s cafeterias, says the decision to ask customers to fill out a form instead of verbally informing the salad technicians of their topping preferences was an effort to speed up an often-lagging line. Beard, who couldn’t be reached last week to respond to the outrage of the taco salad fans, on Monday vigorously defended the decision by an unnamed “on-site manager” who instituted the forms.

“I told her I applauded her hard work and her willingness to step in to try to do something to get people served faster,” Beard tells HOH.

The forms don’t represent “some big change in taco salad policy,” he says, and the cafeteria folk haven’t finalized their plans for future taco salad days.

Other HOH readers, too, cheered on the change. “I was in and out faster than ever,” one grateful staffer said.

Which just goes to show you that to some, the salsa jar’s half full …

ONE, but Not the Same. U2 frontman Bono’s do-gooding ONE Campaign just scored a pair of high-profile hires. Porter McConnell — yep, that’s McConnell as in her father, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — is joining the group as policy and outreach coordinator. Porter has worked for nonprofits, including work in conflict zones in South America.

And Erin Eagan is leaving the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to be ONE’s national student and youth coordinator. She joins former Reid-er Susan McCue, who is CEO and president of ONE.

The group, which is dedicated to fighting AIDS and poverty in Africa, has been building up staff drawn from both sides of the aisle.

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