Ross Tossed

Posted December 7, 2007 at 6:32pm

’Tis the season for the more the merrier, right? Not if you’re ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross. The veteran muckraker and his news crew were unwelcome guests at multiple Congressional holiday parties around the Capitol last week, getting booted from at least one party as he tried to catch lawmakers and lobbyists getting cozy. [IMGCAP(1)]

At the National Beer Wholesalers Association and Brewers Association’s “Taste of the Holidays” party Wednesday night in the Rayburn cafeteria, Members of Congress, staffers and lobbyists noshed on House ethics committee-approved delicacies like Guinness draught mini meatballs and beer-glazed ribs and libations that included more than 20 brews.

Ross entered the party with cameras rolling. His goal: to show perks lawmakers and staffers receive during the holidays as trade groups and lobby shops throw swanky parties on Capitol Hill. Unsurprisingly, the newsman was treated like an interloper by the party’s sponsors.

Ross didn’t get much of a chance to shoot the Beer Wholesalers’ party — he was kicked out almost upon arrival, according to one witness to the mini-drama. Aside from not being invited to the soiree, Ross would have been in violation of House rules that don’t allow video cameras in the cafeterias without prior approval. But Ross was persistent in his pursuit of the story: After being asked to leave, he waited outside the doors trying to catch partygoers making their exit.

“Reporting on how big money is spent in the halls of government is a worthy and important undertaking,” ABC spokeswoman Andrea Jones said of Ross’ segment that will air this evening on “World News Tonight.” “Our award-winning series, Money Trail, has done that for years and will continue to do so.”

But Beer Wholesalers spokeswoman Rebecca Spicer insists that the fuss is overblown since the party complied with all of the stepped-up ethics laws. “It’s a great event so we expected a large turnout, but who knew that people from New York would travel to D.C. just to try to crash a reception,” Spicer joked. “Talk about a widely attended event.”

Party Throws Passengers Off-Track. Passengers on the train from Washington to New York on Friday morning might have been in a hurry to get to the Big Apple, but a speedy trip wasn’t in the cards.

A last-minute mechanical problem kept the train from leaving D.C. on time, and although the delay didn’t seem to bother a group of hard-partying GOPers on board, other passengers were left griping that it was added security for the VIP passengers that caused the scheduling snag. The Amtrak regional train was set to leave Union Station at 11:30 a.m., but it was delayed for at least 40 minutes, according to an HOH tipster. Meanwhile, security — including dogs — made a sweep through the train.

HOH hears that the large Republican entourage, which included at least a few Members, set up a party on the rails, taking over three cars with a catered lunch and free-flowing bar.

The Members and big donors were on their way to New York for the National Republican Congressional Committee annual winter weekend of socializing and meetings. And while they might have been in a festive holiday mood, other passengers weren’t feeling so holly-jolly as they cooled their heels and waited, thinking that the bigwigs had caused the delay.

“There are a bunch of elderly people on the train,” griped a northbound HOH tipster, who was unaffiliated with the NRCC entourage and irritated by the delay. “Meanwhile, they’re eating beef and drinking whiskey … all the security seemed a little gratuitous.”

Amtrak spokeswoman Tracy Connell says a mechanical problem was to blame but didn’t know if the security was an added measure or just a routine check.

The NRCC’s annual winter visit to Gotham was set to include a Friday night welcome reception, outings to shows and a Sunday shopping excursion to Henri Bendel, we hear.

One attendee estimated about 22 Members were making the trip to New York, but not all of them were on the party train. One Member that HOH’s on-board tipster spotted was a jovial Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), who was seen yukking it up with other partyers.

Despite the irritation of their fellow passengers, at least the train ride ensured that the party-hearty travelers wouldn’t have to get behind the wheel themselves. “We encourage our Republican supporters to practice their politics responsibly,” NRCC spokesman Ken Spain told HOH.

Brush-Up at Rules. HOH is not about to cast aspersions on those who value good oral hygiene, mind you, but attendees at a House Rules Committee meeting on Thursday thought Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) might have gone a bit too far, engaging in some better-done-in-the-bathroom dental care while sitting on the dais.

A spy tells HOH that Cardoza occupied himself during the post-lunch meeting by attempting to floss his teeth with a page from the notebook that had been placed in front of each committee member. When the single page he was using in place of floss apparently proved inefficient, Cardoza doubled it over and went at it again. The grooming session lasted a minute or two, HOH hears.

One member of the audience who witnessed the session wondered if Cardoza was grappling with the remnants of a pork lunch, seeing that earmark reform was a hot topic before the panel that day. “Seems Democrats have been on a pork-heavy diet these days,” one GOPer remarked.

Cardoza’s spokesman wasn’t sure what food was the reason for his boss’s picky ways but said Cardoza “obviously supports people having healthy teeth and gums.”

Madden Spiked From Lobby. Football legend John Madden got a hero’s welcome when he rolled into the Speaker’s Lobby on on Thursday while on the Hill doing a little work in support of diabetes funding. But his son Joseph Madden … well, not so much. It seems the younger Madden wasn’t wearing the coat required for entering the oh-so-formal lobby (though he did sport a tie), and the ever-alert guards bounced him.

Joseph eventually made his way into the lobby wearing an obviously borrowed jacket. Those Madden guys are pretty beefy, and the too-short jacket left a few inches of telltale shirt cuff exposed. Once the younger Madden was suitably gussied up, all went well. Usually blasé Members turned into starry-eyed groupies, surrounding the elder Madden for autographs and football small talk.

The Maddens might be experts on running a tight defense, but it seems like Capitol security knows a thing or two about it, too.

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