Sen. Tube Fixer

Posted May 15, 2007 at 6:46pm

Who needs those Geeks on Call when there’s Sen. Patrick Leahy?

Not that his job security’s in question, but the Vermont Democrat proved over the weekend that he’s got a fallback career as an office IT guy when he single-handedly restored his office’s crashed servers to working order. [IMGCAP(1)]

The Senator’s tale of technological derring-do started when the office’s real IT guy, Matt Payne-Funk, was doing some remote maintenance on the office e-mail server on Saturday and accidentally shut down the servers. Realizing he’d have to come in to the office to physically restart them, he sent BlackBerry messages to staffers warning them that service would be down until he could trek to Capitol Hill to fix it. After getting Payne-Funk’s message, Leahy, who was already in the Russell Senate Office Building, volunteered to remedy the problem himself.

That’s the point at which most staffers tactfully would intervene to prevent their overconfident bosses from making a real mess of things, but Payne-Funk said he knew Leahy could handle the task.

This also is the part where the techno-speak mumbo-jumbo gets a bit over HOH’s head (she’ll be asking for Leahy’s help in changing printer ink cartridges next time she sees him): Leahy ventured into the server room, assumed the helm of the KVM monitor (that’s the keyboard–video–mouse system that allows control of several systems with one monitor, silly) confirmed the down server, and revved it up again. He then assured Payne-Funk that the start-up screens on the KVM were back to normal.

Later, Leahy realized the BlackBerry server hadn’t been reactivated and alerted Payne-Funk, who brought it back up remotely.

So the story ends happily: service returned; the poor, overworked tech guy spared a weekend trip to the office; and the Senator earning kudos from his impressed staff. Leahy’s no stranger to the gizmos that one of his colleagues famously dubbed “a series of tubes” (actually, that was about the Web, not computers themselves, but whatever). He’s known for his work on Internet issues and blogs on his Web site, which has won Gold Mouse Awards from the Congressional Management Foundation three years straight.

Spokesman David Carle pointed out one drawback to the weekend’s geeky saga. “The down side is that staffers are lining up to ask the boss to program their TiVos in his spare time, and he doesn’t have much of that these days,” Carle said.

Don’t Send Flowers Either. Do not, we repeat, do NOT ask Rep. Barney Frank why his arm is in a sling. The Massachusetts Democrat issued a pre-emptive MYOB memo to nebby-nosed colleagues who might have the audacity to show their concern by asking him about the injury.

Notoriously nettlesome Frank on Tuesday sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter to ward off any sympathetic overtures. Circulated to House offices with the subject line “Message For Your Boss From Congressman Frank,” the missive explains that while Frank appreciates the queries, he’d like them to stop. ASAP.

“In order to avoid having to repeat the same conversation, I am sending out this Dear Colleague,” Frank wrote. If you must know, Frank said he ruptured a tendon in his left arm while using the curling machine in his gym and had surgery on Monday at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. “I’ll be using the sling for a week or two, but I feel fine. … Thanks for not asking,” he concluded.

Oh, and, P.S.: Buzz off.

Slick Ric. In a move sure to begin a new chapter in the rapper wars, Rep. Ric Keller (R-Fla.) invoked the words of hip-hop legend LL Cool J during a House floor speech on Monday.

Keller was boasting of how he had supported a measure to increase funding for police officers, way back before it was cool. Keller was the original GOP co-sponsor of the legislation, which was not always popular with budget-hawk Republicans. Like a practiced emcee, Keller riffed a bit from the prepared speech he brought with him to the chamber floor, according to Keller Chief of Staff Bryan Malenius.

“Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years,” Keller noted, quoting the lyrics of LL Cool J’s 1990 hit “Mamma Said Knock You Out.”

As any student of the battles among the titans of hip-hop knows, merely quoting another artist in such a public forum is enough to start a rivalry, the likes of which LL Cool J has engaged in with tough-guy luminaries such as Ice-T, Wyclef Jean, Jamie Foxx and Canibus.

Malenius, who is firmly in Keller’s posse, explained the reference by saying his boss is “completely steeped in pop culture” and said he thought LL Cool J might enjoy the shout-out from C-SPAN. “That’s Ric being Ric,” he said. “On such a serious topic, he thought it was only right to quote one of the premier statesmen of our time.”

Happy Feet. Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) hosted a short, tuxedoed visitor in his Rayburn Building office on Tuesday that had even usually blasé staffers and Members agog. The guest, who goes by the name Simon, originally hails from South America and likes fish and swimming.

Oh, and he’s a penguin.

Simon stopped by the Pennsylvania Democrat’s office with his handlers from Pittsburgh’s National Aviary, who were there to talk to the Congressman about the importance of the facility. Simon got loads of attention from admiring staffers both from Murtha’s and nearby offices. Even a few Members, including Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) and Tim Holden (D-Pa.), stopped by to ogle the creature.

Simon greeted the attention patiently, although a Murtha spokesman said he snapped at a few hands during the visit, which Simon’s handlers explained happened because the penguin thought shiny watches were fish.

And here we thought all Penguins from Pittsburgh carried hockey sticks.

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