You Don’t Know Me

Posted June 26, 2007 at 6:31pm

One wouldn’t think that Congressional staffers need any more opportunities to swap stories and spout off — that’s why HOH is pretty sure happy hour was invented. But now there’s another forum for chatty staffers who toil for the legislative branch, and its founder is hoping that anonymity will breed candor, not slander. [IMGCAP(1)]

The Congressional staffer who launched TheCapitolist.com on June 11, and who spoke to HOH on condition of his own anonymity, says he wanted to create a forum for staffers to freely discuss issues important to them and to foster camaraderie among the Hill’s often underappreciated and underpaid underlings.

So far, though, dialogue seems to center on the mundane. Popular topics include all things intern (particularly where to find good-looking ones to ogle); whining about clueless constituents; and the location of lunches and receptions offering free food.

“It’s an experiment,” says the founder of the site, whose motto is “Speak freely. Stay anonymous.” Only visitors logging onto the site from a House or Senate Internet Protocol address can post messages, and the host says he doesn’t collect the addresses of posters. As for the site itself, it’s run from an anonymous domain registration company, keeping its author’s identity hidden.

So far, The Capitolist has been uncensored, although he says he’d remove a post if it, say, outed another staffer or maliciously singled out an individual.

The postings are a grab-bag mix of play-by-plays of action on the floors of both chambers (“64 Yays [sic]. 35 Nays. Now the fun begins.” read a post after the Tuesday Senate cloture vote on immigration), earnest questions (“Does any [sic] know if CUPS is serving coffee again? This morning their machine wasn’t working,” read another post, referring to the popular coffee shop in the Russell Senate Office Building), occasional witticisms, and observations about the minutiae of Hill life. As with any online forum, there are lots of expletives and plenty of garbage.

The site’s founder says about 1,000-2,000 viewers log on every day, and that there are 5,000-10,000 page views daily.

Despite those numbers, HOH was hard-pressed to find staffers who would admit to posting to, or even extensively reading, the site. Perhaps HOH’s sources are just particularly diligent, hard-working folks, or perhaps no one wants to own up to ignoring the “people’s business” in favor of their own.

Undergrad Re-Hash. One of Sen. Norm Coleman’s old college pals wants to reminisce about their undergrad days, but the particular good times he’s recalling — like smoking joints in dorm rooms — are ones the Minnesota Republican probably wants to forget.

Norm Kent, a former classmate of Coleman’s at Hofstra University in New York, recently fired off a letter to his old pal reminding him of the high times they once shared, after Kent received a form letter from Coleman in which the Senator takes a tsk-tsk attitude toward marijuana usage.

Kent, an attorney and radio talk-show host, accused his former toking buddy of hypocrisy in a letter posted on CelebStoner.com, a site devoted to stoner news. “How about admitting that if the [current New York] drug laws were applied to Norman Bruce Coleman on Long Island in 1968, or to me, or to our friends, and fellow students, you, I and others we knew and loved might just be getting out of jail now?” asks Kent, who serves on the board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Among the stories he shares of their smoky high-jinks: They would cleverly tape their doors shut and burn incense to hide the smell, and Coleman once smoked pot while standing on the roof of a campus building during a protest.

“This advocacy group’s desperate attempt to drum up publicity for their cause is anything but normal or acceptable,” Coleman spokesman LeRoy Coleman tells HOH.

The letter was sparked by a mass letter Coleman sent out explaining his anti-legalization stance. “I oppose the legalization of marijuana because, as noted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, marijuana can have serious adverse health affects on individuals,” Coleman wrote, describing the deleterious effect of the wicked weed.

Staffers for $200, Alex. “Who is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton?” That’s not a question you hear often, but it’s how one of the New York Democrat’s staffers might soon identify her boss.

That’s because one of Clinton’s legislative aides, Ann Gavaghan, is getting a shot at a slot on “Jeopardy!,” the quiz show where answers are given in the form of a question.

Gavaghan, whose work for the Senator includes health care, HIV/AIDS and international women’s issues, is flying to Los Angeles next month to compete for a spot on the show. She made the show’s first cut, giving her the chance to head out to La-la-land for her chance to hang with host Alex Trebek.

Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines says staffers in Clinton’s office are confident about Gavaghan’s chances. Aside from being a smart cookie, she’s also got a cutthroat streak that might come in handy in those beat-’em-to-the-buzzer moments. “If she is half as competitive on the show as she is during our softball games, the other contestants need to watch out,” Reines warns.

Frites, Not Peanuts. While his Democratic colleagues were taking a thumping by Republicans across town at Monday’s 46th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) was decidedly more comfortable — and better-fed — at downtown bistro Central.

HOH spies celebrating their wedding anniversary at the chic eatery say they were interrupted mid-dinner by the rowdy behavior of a table full of guys in suits. One of the guys was pounding his hand on the table repeatedly, they tell HOH. When the lovey-dovey pair turned to see who was causing the ruckus, they recognized the Illinois Democrat (who wasn’t the table-pounder) among the boisterous stag party.

With Emanuel’s prowess in helping flip the House to a Democratic majority in the previous election cycle, Democrats might have wished he was in the dugout instead of digging into fancy bistro fare.

John Stanton contributed to this report.

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