Hill’s Weak Tweets

Posted March 28, 2008 at 5:47pm

Members of Congress long ago missed their opportunity to invent the Internet (thanks, Al Gore!), but they still have the chance to be Twitter pioneers.

[IMGCAP(1)]Plenty of Members have signed onto Twitter, the “micro-blogging” network that allows users to send subscribers short updates on their whereabouts and doings, but few are actually using the techno-darling service the way it’s meant to be used.

According to HOH’s survey of Twittering Members, many set up accounts with high hopes of posting often, only to disappoint with infrequent entries — or none at all.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), for example, announced in her first and only post, “I look forward to posting on Twitter!” But alas, 11 months later, we’re still holding our breath.

Political Internet consultant Bill Beutler of New Media Strategies tells HOH that although Members certainly aren’t maximizing Twitter, often just setting their profiles to include new blog posts without generating any Twitter-specific posts, they still have a chance to get with the times. “If this does turn into the next big thing, they would look like they got there first,” he tells HOH.

Surprisingly, the 69-year-old Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) is one of the more savvy users of Twitter. Abercrombie has posted little updates on his daily life — “Lunch at Kincaids” was a recent entry, or “tweet” in Twitter-speak — on the service. Spokesman Dave Helfert says his boss isn’t necessarily the most wired guy, but says his staff has made online applications like blogging and Twittering a priority since it’s a way to reach young constituents. “If we want to reach young people about what’s going on in Washington, this is how we’re going to have to do it,” he says.

Let’s face it, we’re all dying to know the every move of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who’s a sometimes-Twitter-er.

Sleeping for the Enemy. Hardworking Washingtonians might be snooze-button addicts, but a new device just might be the key for ending the sleepy cycle: An alarm clock wirelessly linked to your bank account that makes small donations to your least favorite charity every time you hit the dreaded snooze button.

For example, the motivation for, say, a Republican to rise on time instead of sleeping an extra 10 minutes could be that his alarm clock would send 10 bucks to, say, the presidential campaign coffers of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

The SnuzNLuz, available at thinkgeek.com for a mere $39.99, even keeps tabs on the total amount the user has given to the enemy. According to the product description, the newfangled alarm clock harnesses hatred as a motivation to get users up in the morning. “It’s human nature not to give your enemies gobs of cash so that they can grow big and dominate the world with their totally wrong, stupid and invalid point of view,” the pitch goes. “That’s why everytime you hit the snooze button, the SnuzNLuz will donate a specified amount of your real money to a non-profit you hate. The problem of sleeping in is solved.”

Political types are taking note. “Finally Republicans may have discovered a way to fund their attack machine this cycle,” one Democratic strategist tells HOH. “That, however, is a nightmare that would scare most Americans out of bed.”

RNC spokesman Alex Conant, though, doubted whether his colleagues would need it. “We don’t need alarm clocks at the RNC because we never sleep,” he tells HOH.

Mr. Mom Goes to Washington. Todd Goldup has spent the past three years changing diapers and cleaning house, and now he’s shooting for a role in a bigger House: the U.S. House of Representatives.

The house husband turned first-time Congressional candidate is trying to woo donors in his bid to unseat freshman Democratic Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.).

But more than that, Goldup, a former Marine who is running as an Independent, is already looking to cash in on donors’ generosity to help compensate himself personally, a move that’s complicated by his current career as a homemaker. Earlier this month, Goldup wrote the Federal Election Commission seeking an advisory opinion about his options to draw a salary from his campaign committee as a homemaker taking care of two children, citing the extra expense of day care as one of the reasons for needing the cash. Goldup says that not being independently wealthy or backed by a national party is a barrier for regular people to run for office.

“If you leave your job to run for office you can collect salary equal to what you were making, or the current salary for office you are seeking, whichever is less, but since I haven’t had earned income that number is zero,” Goldup told HOH, adding that he’s not seeking much dough — certainly far less than a House Member’s salary of $169,300.

Goldup doesn’t have much precedent in Gillibrand. The former partner at a Big Apple law firm, whose salary before taking office was $90,000, according to House financial disclosure records, didn’t opt to take advantage of the option to draw a salary from her campaign committee during her 2006 election.

Gillibrand’s chief of staff, Jess Fassler, declined to comment on Goldup’s bid to collect a salary.

But it doesn’t look like the incumbent is hurting for cash. In fact, it looks like she’s got change to spare: Gillibrand recently donated the $2,000 campaign contribution from scandal-plagued former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer to a local charity.

Washingtonienne Take Two. It didn’t take long for Eliot Spitzer’s link to a second prostitution ring to dredge up dirty business about former Washington sex diarist Jessica Cutler.

The former Senate staffer turned steamy blogger was outed last week for being linked to alleged madam Kristin “Billie” Davis’ Web site Wicked Models, according to the New York Post. Davis’ Web site featured four revealing photos of Cutler, who was identified as “Brooke.”

While Cutler wouldn’t comment about her involvement to the paper, one person who may be laughing all the way to the bank about her recent outing is former Sen. Mike DeWine’s (R-Ohio) staffer Robert Steinbuch. Steinbuch, who now works as a professor at University of Arkansas-Little Rock law school, is embroiled in a lawsuit against Hyperion, which published Cutler’s fiction tell-all “The Washingtonienne.”

In her blog, Cutler noted Steinbuch, who was not-so-secretly called R.S. in posts, for his penchant for spanking and using handcuffs during sex.

“Walt Disney must be rolling over in his grave knowing that the Disney empire is in bed with Cutler,” Steinbuch told HOH, of Hyperion’s owner Disney Publishing Worldwide. “How can the Disney empire publish Cutler’s smut on the one hand, and sell products to our children at the same time?”

Sounds like Steinbuch might be in for a Disney happy ending after all.

Briefly Quoted. “Obviously, I am quite jubilant about something in this picture. … I’m not under indictment or out of detox. I don’t know what the occasion was on this, but it’s a very happy United States Senate candidate.”

— Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), explaining to the Lincoln Journal Star how he differs from both Lindsay Lohan and Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.). Hagel was providing commentary about photos from throughout his career, including one of himself looking giddy on the campaign trail.

Matthew Murray contributed to this report.

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