Show Stoppers

Posted February 22, 2008 at 6:36pm

In the musical “Gypsy,” a seasoned burlesque dancer advises newbie Gypsy Rose Lee that a girl’s “gotta get a gimmick” if she wants to make it big in the business. And the same is true, apparently, of political fundraising, where gimmicks are at an all-time high.

[IMGCAP(1)]First there was Rep. Artur Davis’(D-Ala.) Valentine’s soiree in which the single lawmaker was offered up as an oh-so eligible bachelor, and now Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) is donning “Saturday Night Fever” attire, complete with an Afro wig and platform shoes, to try to bring in the big bucks. Members trying to raise campaign cash, take note: Schmoozing, or even being an important guy, is no longer enough.

For Inglis, that meant being filmed for an online video while taking a two-hour dance lesson to learn a “routine” for his March 8 fundraiser in Greenville: “Get Down With Bob, To Lead a Nation You Must First Lead a Line Dance.”

The online fundraising flier (inglisforcongress.com/getdown.html) includes a faux movie trailer featuring Inglis’ moves spliced with footage of campaign staffers and his wife, Mary Anne, riffing on Inglis’ awkward attempt at dancing. “He’s known as a hustler,” deadpanned one older woman in the video. “I mean he can do the hustle.”

Inglis isn’t the only one resorting to attention-grabbing fundraising ploys. Democratic fundraiser Heather Podesta, who was the brain behind Davis’ Valentine’s Day fete, is back again, this time with a lower-brow offering — hot dogs. In a gathering billed as the “Ultimate Sausage Party,” Podesta is feting two of New York’s top dogs in Congress, Democratic Reps. Joe Crowley and Michael Arcuri, with her husband, Tony Podesta. The event is being held at their Woodley Park home, and it’s being catered by Adams Morgan eatery M’Dawg Haute Dogs.

“Tony and I always want to have fun and we have to keep it interesting for ourselves and our friends and clients so we try to shake it up a little bit,” Podesta said of the meaty gimmick. One New Yorker HOH couldn’t help but notice would have been a natural fit for the fundraiser — Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner — was conspicuously left off the invite.

“Everybody loves a Weiner, but this was a Crowley-Arcuri special,” Podesta told HOH. She said even though Weiner won’t be there, attendees should expect one of the restaurant’s specialties — Hebrew National, a kosher hot dog — to be on the menu.

Not to be outdone by her Empire State colleagues, New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney is putting her own twist on a May 12 fundraiser. The gathering will feature longtime Maloney friend and former Rep. Geraldine Ferraro (D-N.Y.) and musical guest Chubby Checker.

Goin’ to the Chapel. Why go to Vegas when you can just visit Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.)? The Congresswoman moonlights as a marriage officiant, most recently when she presided over the San Francisco wedding of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) daughter, Christine, to Peter Kaufman.

A quirky law in California allows Members of Congress, along with assorted magistrates and judges, to perform marriages. Eshoo, a longtime close friend of the Pelosi family, has known Christine since she was a child and was only too happy to preside over the ceremony.

HOH hears this wasn’t the first time Eshoo has helped a couple find matrimonial bliss.

Still, Eshoo’s Hill office isn’t likely to turn into a Vegas-style chapel of love for couples looking to take quickie vows between committee hearings, since she’s only legal for ceremonies in her home state.

Battle With the Bands. In high school, it was tough to decide who was wimpier: the band kids or the A/V crowd. This week, brace yourselves for a potential showdown between the all-grown-up versions of those cliques, when planefuls of radio and TV station owners come face to face with their bitter rivals in a dispute over royalties: the musicians whose songs they play on the airwaves.

The National Association of Broadcasters is sponsoring its annual fly-in this week, in which its members come in droves to the Hill to talk legislation with their lawmakers. Not to be outdone, a group of recording artists have planned a similar lobbying tour, which not-so-coincidentally coincides with the broadcasters’ visit.

The two sides are battling over a proposal, favored by the musicians, that would require radio stations to pay royalties (the broadcasters call it a tax) for playing their songs.

Look out for mostly no-name musicians making their case around the Hill this week (um, it’s kind of hard for filthy-rich rock stars to complain about needing the royalties, after all) and look out for fights.

The two groups warmed up for this week’s clash with a little debate before Congressional staffers on Thursday, in which Mary Wilson of famed girl-group the Supremes took on an NAB staffer Kelly Cole.

John Simson, the executive director of SoundExchange, one of the musicians’ groups sponsoring the lobbying visit, invoked one of Wilson’s songs in talking about the battle to come. “To the recording artists who know something about struggling, ‘There Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ to keep them from getting fair compensation for all their hard work.”

NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton shot back, blasting the royalty proposal. “RIAA and the foreign-owned record labels have abused performers for decades, and now they have the gall to parade them around Capitol Hill seeking as much as a $7 billion tax on local radio stations,” he said. “The undeniable fact is that free and generous airplay of music on the radio has created untold wealth for both performers and the record labels.”

So if you see a scuffle in the hallways between the rival lobbying entourages, try telling them to “Stop, In the Name of Love.”

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