Tall-Tail E-mail

Posted October 3, 2007 at 6:39pm

Capitol Hill staffers tend to be a generous bunch, and they e-mail almost incessantly, two qualities that make the infiltration of a hoax e-mail seeking homes for rescued puppies that much more likely to spread wildly around Hill offices. [IMGCAP(1)]

On Tuesday, one such message landed in the inboxes of Hill folks with the enticing subject line, “free puppies.” Readers were treated to a sad tale of six black Labrador puppies who were “rescued out of the middle of the road on Saturday.” The message, ostensibly from the person who discovered the abandoned pups, included a picture of the homeless dogs. It also warned that if homes weren’t located, they’d head to “Animal Control — which means they only have 5 days.”

The entreaty ended with a plea: “I’ve lost count of the number of rescue groups that I’ve contacted, only to be turned down due to no room. Please check with every dog person you know to see if they need a puppy.” And sure enough, the message made it to offices all around the Hill, various agencies and news organizations. “Everyone in our office was talking about it, trying to figure out if they knew someone who could take them,” one Senate staffer said. But while Hill staffers can be quite bighearted, they’re also highly skeptical. Some staffers wondered what was going on when e-mails sent to the contact person listed in the message, Stacey Moore, were returned.

After a bit of digging, the e-mail was revealed as something of an Internet urban legend. The Web site that debunks such legends and other online ruses, Snopes.com, included an Oct. 2 warning that the message was a fake. It likely originally was a genuine appeal posted on Craigslist, but has circulated with different names and e-mail addresses over the past month or so.

You Again, U2? Bono was back at it again on Wednesday, making the rounds on the Senate side of the Capitol, where he had a chance meeting with none other than Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The diminutive, sharply dressed rocker stopped to greet the Speaker when they crossed paths in the Ohio Clock Corridor.

The rocker met with folks from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after meeting on Tuesday with their House counterparts. During the huddle, spies say the activist, who lobbies for debt relief, efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and anti-poverty policies, had kind words for the work being done by former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).

Is He, or Isn’t He? For political insiders, keeping track of the revolving door at former Sen. Fred Thompson’s (R-Tenn.) presidential campaign can be a full-time job. The guessing game began anew Wednesday after former Federal Election Commission Chairman Michael Toner was quoted in the New York Post about the Democrats’ third-quarter fundraising sans his moniker as a Thompson campaign legal adviser.

“I think that Hillary Clinton’s performance this quarter by any measure is extraordinary,” Toner said in the article. “It further solidifies her role as the front-runner in the Democratic primary.”

This wasn’t the first time Toner’s campaign ties have been pushed below the radar. In June, a PR consultant for Toner’s law firm Bryan Cave sent political reporters an e-mail pushing Toner as an expert able to provide analysis of the second-quarter presidential fundraising reports. The e-mail didn’t note that Toner might not be the most independent person to speak about the fundraising results, considering his Thompson ties.

This time, HOH set out to settle the record. And it wasn’t a Toner aide who caused the non-identification faux pas. “Every time we speak to the media we inform them of Michael’s role with the Fred Thompson presidential campaign,” said Sabrina Tanenbaum, an outside spokeswoman for Bryan Cave.

Familiar Face. After organizing thousands of press conferences, former Sen. Rick Santorum’s (R-Pa.) longtime communications director Robert Traynham is heading in front of the camera as D.C. bureau chief for CN8, the Comcast Network.

For less than a year, Traynham has headed his own PR firm Traynhampr. Now he’ll be back on the Hill covering events and working on the cable channel’s “America’s Next President,” tracking the 2008 presidential election and segments interviewing Washington, D.C., newsmakers.

Submit your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments here.