Bueller? Bueller?

Posted May 14, 2007 at 6:45pm

HOH is familiar with all the ruses involved in skipping class: the forged note from mom and dad, the feigned illness, etc. But one well-worn truant’s trick — showing up just before class is over and getting credit for being there — didn’t work for a top Rules staffer recently. [IMGCAP(1)]

Under new House rules, all staffers and Members have to attend an annual ethics training session, in which they are reminded of the finer points of the all-important new ethics rules (and secretly play tic-tac-toe with a neighbor or catch up on BlackBerrying). Senior staffers, whom we’d feel sorry for if they weren’t defined as those making more than $111,675, have to go in for an additional tutorial.

A GOP aide who attended a session on May 4 likely wasn’t surprised to see at least one delinquent attendee. But the aide was surprised to see who the session’s wannabe Ferris Bueller was: none other than Dan Turton, the staff director for the Democratic majority on the House Rules Committee. Turton is one of the top staffers for the committee that shepherded the new rules through the House.

According to the GOP aide who was in the room, the hour-long event was nearly finished when Turton entered the room and attempted to sign in at the table set up to collect the names of those present, so they could be certified to have met the ethics requirements. Ethics committee staffers manning the event turned him away, however, apparently because the session was too far under way for his attendance to count.

Turton tells HOH that he’s pleading guilty — not of trying to play hooky on the ethics session, but of getting the time wrong. He says he arrived at the session late and realized he had erred. “I guess I need scheduling training before I qualify for ethics training,” he confessed. “I thought the training session started at 3:30 p.m. when it actually started at 3 p.m.”

Maybe he was just used to working at the Rules Committee, where everything seems to happen late.

Cheap Dates. Forget that four-buck latte. A few Members of Congress will have to give up their usual culinary indulgences when they take part in a challenge in which they spend on food only what an average food-stamp recipient does for an entire week.

For Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), that means getting the fancy-coffee monkey off his back. Ryan, who is planning to shop for exactly $21 worth of groceries this morning, just like an average Ohioan on food stamps, won’t be getting his usual Dunkin’ Donuts blend. “He’s going to get something really cheap, and he’ll have to drink that at the office, too,” a spokesman said. Also on the Ryan meal plan are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cottage cheese and ramen noodles. Just like college!

Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.) went shopping together Monday at the Capitol Hill Safeway, where the Congresswoman scored just under $33 worth of groceries for herself and husband Ron Gladney, who is taking the challenge with her. Tuna sandwiches and pasta are on their menu this week.

Making the challenge tougher, participating Members, including Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), won’t be subsidizing their food-stamp diets with any of the free food that seems to flow around Washington, from doughnuts at breakfast meetings to canapés at receptions.

And they thought complying with the new ethics rules was hard.

Hold It. Unless your name is preceded by an impressive honorific such as “Senator” or, better yet, “President,” chances are you’ve been put on hold when trying to reach folks’ offices on Capitol Hill. Alas, HOH herself has spent interminable hours on hold and couldn’t help but notice the strange variety of music that Senators’ offices choose to play while callers are waiting for their connection.

The Senate Sergeant-at-Arms office explains that Senate offices have the choice of four different musical options: country, patriotic, light classical and “contemporary instrumental versions of popular songs” (aka Muzak). Here’s what some of the takers are playing — and we’ll let you read into what the music choice reveals about them: Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) opts for the patriotic channel, which features jaunty marches; Senate Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) goes for the classical; and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the country, which is more twangy new country than, say, Hank Williams Sr.

And in what appears to be a good sign about the musical tastes of the Senate, HOH couldn’t find a member who opted for the Muzak variety.

The Shop-inator. Don’t let that accent and the whole born-in-Austria thing fool you — Arnold Schwarzenegger is as American as apple strudel, er, pie. The Republican California governor pledged his allegiance to all things preppy and all-American by browsing the Polo store in Chevy Chase on Sunday. An HOH spy says the beefy governor poked around the women’s and home sections and cruised for deals amid the lower-level discount (relatively speaking, since we’re talking pricey Americana, mind you) goods, but didn’t appear to buy anything.

As if the former action star wasn’t intimidating enough all by himself, he was trailed by two security dudes, but Schwarzenegger was traveling sans family or pals.

Guess even a superstar needs some solo retail therapy every now and then.

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