Straight Talk?

Posted June 6, 2007 at 6:48pm

The former House Clerk who was a key figure in the scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) says a top GOP leader wanted him out of his job — because he was out of the closet. [IMGCAP(1)]

Former House Clerk Jeff Trandahl says former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) “had long sought to oust him from the job because he is openly gay,” according to a report in the Washington Blade.

Trandahl made the comments while speaking to a group of gays and lesbians aboard the ship Queen Mary II during a cross-Atlantic trip, according the Blade.

A spokeswoman for DeLay dismissed the charge that her boss wanted to sack (that is, fire) Trandahl. “We have no idea where this comes from, but it’s a very serious accusation and an outright lie,” she said.

Trandahl, who was Clerk from 1998 to 2005 and who had warned Foley about his contact with Congressional pages — the root of the scandal that led to Foley’s humiliating resignation last year — praised former Speakers Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) as well as current Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for “supporting him during his tenure,” according to the Blade article.

But he singled out DeLay for criticism.

Trandahl is now the executive director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

A former GOP leadership staffer who served during DeLay and Trandahl’s tenure seemed surprised by Trandahl’s claim that DeLay wanted him fired, doubting that he was even aware the former Clerk was gay. “No member of Congress has a worse gaydar than Tom DeLay,” the former aide said.

D.C.’s “Sopranos” High Note. Oh, that Washington, D.C., was a little more like the mafia demimonde. Instead of whingey press releases, we’d have much more exciting methods of communications, like horse heads in beds and cement shoes. And the pizza would probably be better.

But instead, the mobster world, or at least the most famous fictional one of the moment — the one populated by TV’s “The Sopranos” — got a little dose of staid Washington.

The HBO series’ episode last week featured a prominent shot of the wonky, Washington-based Jamestown Foundation’s Web site. For all eight of you who missed the show, which is the next-to-last installment of the acclaimed series, here’s a recap of the scene in which the foundation made its cameo: The son of mafia scion Tony Soprano, depressed after a failed suicide attempt, visits the site’s analysis of terrorist activity around the world.

The Jamestown Foundation’s brief appearance has caused a bit of a stir, says Erich Marquardt, the think tank’s program manager for the Global Terrorism Analysis, the publication young A.J. Soprano was reading. “I was surprised at the number of policymakers who watch the show,” he tells HOH. “A lot of people called or e-mailed to say they saw us.”

And it’s too soon to know whether the “Sopranos” spotlight will bring new visitors to the site, since the foundation won’t know until next week whether it experienced a post-“Sopranos” spike in traffic.

Marquardt says the show’s producers called a few months ago and said they wanted to feature the Web site. “I think there’s a producer who’s a fan of ours,” he says.

Sweet Charity. Including the now-infamous $90,000 in cash stored in a freezer, there’s plenty of funny money mentioned in the federal charges against Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.). The big bucks that the feds say Jefferson illegally raked in came from iGate Inc., a Kentucky-based technology company owned by Jefferson associate Vernon Jackson. Jackson pleaded guilty to bribing Jefferson to use his influence to help his company win deals with the Nigerian government and other African nations.

But iGate’s alleged largess didn’t just extend to the Congressman himself. It also apparently went to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, of which Jefferson is a former chairman. According to the foundation’s 2004 annual report, iGate was listed as a contributor of between $15,000 and $29,999 to the charitable arm of the Congressional Black Caucus while Jefferson was its head.

But, it turns out, iGate didn’t make good on its promise to the foundation, its staff tells HOH. Herbert Lowe, the foundation’s director of communications, says records indicate that iGate pledged $25,000 but never paid up. The money was supposed to be a donation, in exchange for which the company was to get tickets to the foundation’s annual legislative conference. Records show that no one from the company signed for the tickets, Lowe says, meaning it’s likely no one claimed them.

Promising money to a charity and then not delivering? Why, that’s practically criminal.

High Heels and High Crimes. Watch out, wannabe Richard Reids in stilettos. Police officers manning the Hart Senate Office Building are on to you.

An HOH spy arrived at work Wednesday morning to an unusually long line for the staff-only north-side entrance and soon found out what all the fuss was about. Women who set off the metal detector were being directed by a female officer to take their shoes off.

“One woman, after taking a few minutes to unstrap her rather stylish heels, used a move reminiscent of Peyton Manning and threw them,” our spy said.

The woman then began demanding to know whether the barefoot policy was new, to which the female officer replied “yes,” according to our source. After repeatedly harassing the officer for more information on the policy, the officer asked the woman to come back in an hour when the line was not as long.

Said our spy, who feels put out by the incident, “I mean, where in the world on a strappy summer heel would you hide a shoe bomb?”

Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider explained that the shoe-shedding policy was gender-neutral. Any staffer who set off the metal detectors (which seemed to be happening to almost everyone, Schneider said, something that might have to do with the fact that the entrance and security checkpoint recently was shut down and reopened) had to remove their footwear and run it through the X-ray machines. It just happens that high heels often have metal nails in them that can trigger the detectors, she explained. “A lot of people had to take off their shoes,” she said.

As if those pinched toes and achy arches weren’t enough, ladies, it’s another reason to wear flats.

Showing His Colors. In a Capitol Hill version of one of those frenzied home-makeover shows, the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) got a mini-facelift over the Memorial Day recess, in which the vestiges of the office’s former GOP occupant were erased.

That bookcase that housed the tomes of former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas): gone, and in its place is a new door (“an escape hatch,” Hoyer joked to reporters). The old pale-yellow paint color on the walls: now a bolder mustard hue.

We’ll leave judgment on other campaign promises to the experts, but at least when it comes to décor, Democratic leaders are definitely changing the tone on the Hill.

Carbon Copy. In the House, it seems, it’s becoming cool to give up the gas. That’s greenhouse gas, by the way, not the other kinds of hot air that Congressional offices definitely couldn’t live without.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) is the second Member to commit to running a “carbon-neutral” office.

For the science-challenged, that means the office will offset all the carbon it produces through its usual routine of air travel, daily commuting, cooling and heating. Perlmutter personally purchased $830 of Colorado-based energy credits to offset the carbon production, in addition to cutting down on carbon output.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) announced in February that his office would be stuck in (carbon) neutral. And Perlmutter is throwing the greeny gauntlet down by calling on other Members to make their offices carbon-neutral.

Bet he can hug a tree harder, too.

Emily Pierce and Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.

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