If Walls Could Talk

Posted May 16, 2007 at 6:46pm

All HOH ever seems to find when moving office furniture around are dust bunnies the size of actual bunnies and old takeout menus. But staffers in the Russell Building office of Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) unearthed something a wee bit more noteworthy. [IMGCAP(1)]

When Tester’s offices were being reconfigured — they are made up of parts of offices formerly belonging to Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) — workers made a surprising discovery.

Behind a cabinet in a closet that Tester had requested be removed, they stumbled across what appeared to be an old document.

The document, it turns out, is a slice of history: a citizens’ petition in favor of women’s suffrage that dates back to 1910.

The nearly century-old document was signed by a number of California residents, most of whom were women who identified themselves under the field designated for occupation as “housekeeper.” Most hailed from Fullerton, Calif.

The petition, addressed to the House and the Senate, stated that the signing citizens were at least 21 years old and “hereby petition your Honorable Body to submit to the legislatures of the several States for ratification, an amendment to the National Constitution which shall enable women to vote.”

Tester’s staff turned the yellowing document over to the Secretary of the Senate, who in turn gave it to the National Archives. Matt Fulgham, assistant director of the Center for Legislative Archives, calls the discovery “quite a rare find” and says he and fellow archivists were excited about the addition to their records.

Tester’s staffers recently found out they won’t be getting the item back anytime soon, since after a little touch-up by the conservation staff (the document was in good shape, Fulgham says) it was put with other documents of its era where the public has access to it.

“We had no idea — we thought we could just hang it up on the wall,” says Tester spokesman Matt McKenna.

Fulgham likened Tester’s experience of finding something so significant by accident to getting a surprising appraisal on the TV show “Antiques Roadshow.”

“Maybe everyone’s going to start poking around their offices now,” he says.

Thanks for Nothing. Clearly, these guys need a recess. With just days to go before the first break in the Congressional calendar in more than two months, the poison pens are a-scribbling. On the heels of the “I vant to be alone” note that Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) sent his colleagues explaining an arm injury and none-too-nicely asking everyone to buzz off, a super-sarcastic missive is circulating that Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) jotted off to colleagues who voted against an amendment he sponsored. Now, HOH would be highly suspicious of any letter starting with the phrase “I wanted to congratulate you on your recent vote against my amendment.” And when it comes to Mica’s epistle, she’d be right.

The Congressman had a harsh appraisal of the effects of defeating the amendment, which would have required Head Start teachers to have bachelor’s degrees. “Your vote will help ensure that our most disadvantaged students at their most formative stage are denied the best opportunity to succeed in school and in their future lives.”

Ouch! If that’s a note of congratulations, we’ll take a good, old-fashioned insult any day.

Thanks for Playing. If the 2006 Iowa Congressional race in which Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack beat incumbent Republican Rep. Jim Leach was a TV game show, the equivalent of the parting gift of a toaster to the loser would be a federal building named in said loser’s honor.

Loebsack co-sponsored a bill, which the House adopted handily on Tuesday, naming the courthouse in lovely (so we hear) Davenport, Iowa, the “James A. Leach United States Courthouse.” Fellow freshman Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) co-sponsored the measure with Loebsack.

This whole thing reminds HOH a whole lot of the common suburban practice of ripping up forests to build mini-mansions and then naming streets after the dead trees.

Like a developer eulogizing the mighty elm tree, the two Iowa Democrats had plenty of praise for the vanquished Leach, noting his 30-year tenure in the House. Loebsack also showed some good sportsmanlike behavior, which always seems easier to muster when you’re the guy with the Congressional license plates. “His legacy of statesmanship, his leadership in foreign affairs, and his dedication to public service left a lasting impact on the district I am now honored to represent,” he said in a statement.

As the winner, Loebsack, though, gets whatever’s behind door No. 3 …

The Monkey Effect. Note to writers of press releases: If you don’t want recipients to instantly hit the delete button on your oh-so-artfully crafted announcement, slap on a headline a reporter can’t resist, like “Live Monkeys Lead Protests.”

You’ve got the attention of HOH, for one. The writers of the catchily slugged release, the conservative group Move America Forward, were alerting reporters to events planned today for the district offices of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that would, of course, involve live monkeys.

The monkeys will, apparently, be waving white flags and will be identified as “surrender monkeys,” the epithet the pro-war folks at Move America Forward are lobbing at Democrats who want troops withdrawn from Iraq.

Hey, the gimmick works in advertising — it’s practically a scientific fact that TV commercials involving monkeys are automatically 8.3 times funnier those one without, not to mention the bonus factor for monkeys wearing hats. Why not press releases?

Baby News. Between them, they’ve bylined thousands of news stories about some of Capitol Hill’s most complex topics. But Congressional press corps fixtures Mary Dalrymple of The Associated Press and John Godfrey of Dow Jones now have a new — and far cuter — production to their names. Violet Ann Godfrey was born to the proud couple Wednesday morning. Mom, dad and baby are all doing great, HOH hears. At 7 pounds, 7 ounces, she’s a little small to be fitted for a Congressional press ID. But it’s never too soon to start teaching little Violet her first words: Can you say “supplemental appropriations bill?”

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