Funny Money

Posted July 25, 2007 at 6:22pm

Comedian Dave Chappelle famously concluded his now-defunct Comedy Central series with the line “I’m rich, biatch!” And since it’s probably true — the comedian is reportedly worth heaps of money — he needs a place to stash all that cash, like the House-side credit union. [IMGCAP(1)]

Chappelle on Wednesday paid a visit to the branch of the Congressional Federal Credit Union located in the basement of the Longworth House Office Building, surprising staffers and fans who clearly weren’t expecting to see a superstar among the badge-wearing folks cashing checks and making deposits.

HOH spies say the suit-wearing comedian cheerfully signed autographs and posed for pictures while in the Longworth basement, at one point informing the crowd around him he was “pleased to report I’m alive” (he was reportedly hospitalized for exhaustion earlier this month), prompting a cheer from the gathered groupies.

An employee of the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer who sidled up to Chappelle tells HOH the comedian was “really cool and laid-back” and playfully asked him what the “CAO” emblazoned on his shirt stood for. “He asked if it was a gang,” the employee tells HOH.

Chappelle told some onlookers that he was doing a bit of banking. Membership to the credit union is limited to Members of Congress, House staffers and other “select employee groups,” according to the credit union’s Web site. Chappelle might be eligible through his family connections, since his mother was reportedly once a staffer for former Rep. Charles Diggs (D-Mich.).

Chappelle’s been turning up all over town recently; CNN White House correspondent (and HOH alumnus) Ed Henry bumped into the comedian outside the White House gates on July 20 and wrote an account of their meeting on CNN.com.

Chappelle is no stranger to D.C., since he grew up in the area and attended the Duke Ellington School for the Arts. And he’s paid at least one visit to the Capitol before, getting a tour last spring from a high school buddy who’s a member of the Capitol Police force.

The Case of the Missing Butterfly. So maybe it’s not the famous theft of the “Mona Lisa” from the Louvre, but the case of a missing painting from a House office has all the markings of an art-heist whodunit.

The mystery began a few weeks ago when Wisconsin Rep. Steve Kagen’s staff tried to return the painting, which was last year’s Badger State finalist in the annual Congressional artwork contest, to its rightful owner, high schooler Stephanie Smith. The pointillist depiction of a purple butterfly had been on display in the Democratic Congressman’s personal office before staffers took it down to make room for this year’s winner. But after scouring the office (surely doing their best Sherlock Holmes impersonations with magnifying glasses and pipes in hand), they didn’t turn up anything except a few dust bunnies. But the staffers-turned-art detectives didn’t stop there.

The plucky crew of gumshoes did an office-by-office sweep of the entire Longworth House Office Building floor. “We are doing everything we can to recover this artwork,” says Curtis Ellis, Kagen’s spokesman. The office even went so far as to take a collection from staffers to create a $100 award for the painting’s return — a bounty they’re offering with no questions asked. “We’ve contacted the Capitol Police and we felt we couldn’t rest until we did as extensive a search as possible,” Ellis says. An e-mail sent to Capitol Hill schedulers this week announcing the $100 reward hasn’t turned up any leads.

HOH invites her tack-sharp readers to turn up clues that will solve this arty mystery; send your leads to hoh@rollcall.com.

Senator, Interrupted. Life is getting back to normal for Sen. David Vitter. A mere 18 days since news broke that the Louisiana Republican had been a client of an alleged call-girl service, Vitter appears to be back in the Senatorial saddle and back to his usual Washington, D.C., routine — minus, HOH can only assume, calls to the alleged “D.C. Madam.”

On Tuesday evening, he hosted a fundraising dinner, according to an invite obtained by HOH. The event, billed as a “private dinner,” aimed to raise money for Louisiana Reform PAC, which is Vitter’s leadership political action committee, according to CQ PoliticalMoneyLine. A $2,500 “suggested donation” earned attendees the title of “host,” and $1,000 was suggested for PACs or individuals.

“Seats are Limited,” the invite cautioned, although HOH couldn’t find any attendees willing to dish on whether the event was, indeed, full.

Though he’s been keeping a low profile around the halls of the Capitol, Vitter also spoke on the Senate floor a few times, including on Tuesday, when he was on safe ground making a pitch for more funding for hurricane recovery efforts. And, HOH spies say, he’s still wearing that goofy, spangly bracelet, which HOH previously reported was a handmade gift from his son, Jack.

After the Storm. It’s a soft landing for Paul Vinovich, the former staffer for the House Administration Committee who was on that infamous golfing trip to Scotland with fallen superlobbyist Jack Abramoff and former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas). Vinovich is back in action as the counsel to the committee organizing the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.

A spokesman for the committee on arrangements, the branch of the Republican National Committee tasked with setting up the convention, tells HOH that Vinovich came aboard within the past month.

Vinovich was subpoenaed in the Justice Department’s investigation into the doings of former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who chaired the House Administration Committee when Vinovich was a staffer. After leaving the committee, he took some time off to travel and play golf.

But Vinovich isn’t too eager to display a memento of his most notorious golfing outing — the one to the famed St. Andrews golf course that featured prominently in the federal investigation.

A business-card holder from St. Andrews, which HOH sources say Vinovich once proudly displayed on his desk, is now nowhere in sight in his new St. Paul digs. “It was lost in transit,” the spokesman relayed to HOH.

Cartoon Networking. So many Members of Congress bring to mind characters from the animated series “The Simpsons.” For example, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) is widely thought to be a dead ringer for Ned Flanders, the Simpsons’ goody-two-shoes neighbor. Now Sen. Chris Dodd wants to get in on the act, posting a Simpson-ized portrait of himself on his MySpace profile. The profile on the popular networking site, which the Connecticut Democrat uses for his presidential campaign, used to boast only the usual, staid mug shot.

But within the past week or so, visitors to the site have noticed that Dodd had spiced things up with an animated version of himself.

The character, which has the unmistakable look of a Simpsons cartoon, was created on the “Create Your Simpsons Avatar” feature of the Web site devoted to the new Simpsons’ movie. On the site, you can select skin and hair color and add various features and hairstyles. Dodd’s look-alike is pretty accurate, especially the silver hair/dark eyebrow combo.

A Dodd spokeswoman said the Senator’s Simpsons-style image makeover is “another innovative way to draw people to the campaign while acknowledging the social commentary that ‘The Simpsons’ has provided over the years.”

HOH isn’t so sure about Dodd’s presidential chances, but he’s got a decent shot at unseating Mayor Quimby.

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