Tees, Not Ties

Posted April 29, 2008 at 6:36pm

In a sea of pinstripes on the Senate floor on Monday, three casually dressed fellas stood out: Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Richard Burr (N.C.) and Johnny Isakson (Ga.) were sporting rather … well, sporty attire.

An HOH spy-cum-defender of Senate formality noted that the three were dressed in polo shirts and khakis — Burr and Isakson sans blazers and Burr without socks — while casting their votes in Monday evening’s roll call.

[IMGCAP(1)]There isn’t an official Senate dress code, mostly because Senators are usually such formal folk that they wouldn’t be caught dead without their pearls, ties and jackets. So Graham, Burr and Isakson weren’t technically breaking any rules. But the chamber’s purists generally look askance on casual dress.

And if the three looked like they’d be more at home on the links than the Senate chamber, that’s because they expected to be swinging clubs, not casting votes, on Monday. Burr spokesman Chris Walker tells HOH that the Senators had planned to play in the pro-am event that was part of the Wachovia Championship in Charlotte, N.C., but the game was canceled because of thunderstorms.

Instead of teeing off with the professional golfers at the swank Quail Hollow Country Club, the Senators found themselves on a flight back to the confines of the Capitol, but the flight was delayed — also because of the storms — leaving them without time to change into more Senate-appropriate togs.

Pump Politics. Plenty of people are looking to get political mileage out of soaring gas prices. But one candidate, who’s challenging Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), is trying a flashy gas-themed tactic to fuel his own campaign.

In a gimmick sure to get noticed, GOP candidate Luke Puckett announced that he would hand out five gallons of free gas to the first 50 people who came to the Marathon gas station in St. Joseph County. The giveaway is within the bounds of the law, according to Paul Ryan, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center. “Campaign finance laws allow you to do pretty much anything as long as it’s not for your own personal use,” he says.

Still, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wasn’t amused by Puckett’s offer. While it may be legal, DCCC spokeswoman Kyra Jennings pointed out that it’s recycling of a sort: former Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind.) gave Puckett for Congress $1,000 last quarter, some of which Chocola received from oil companies. “Luke Puckett and the St. Joe Republican Party paid for the gas with hand-me-down Big Oil money,” Jennings told HOH.

But Puckett’s spokesman Kyle Bailey told HOH that his boss hasn’t received a penny from oil companies and that he’s proud to have Chocola’s endorsement. “We just wanted to give 50 people from St. Joe County what it was like before Democrats were in charge of Congress,” Bailey told HOH.

Birthday Boys. It’s hard to believe that an executed Iraqi dictator and the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee have much in common (as long as you don’t ask a particularly bitter Democrat).

But Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) celebrated his 59th birthday on Monday, and he noted to an HOH operative that he shares a birthday with the infamous former Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein.

While it was Cole who brought up the shared birthday, he said he’d rather be associated with another, far more admired, fellow birthday boy. “I prefer that folks remember I share a birthday with President James Monroe and forget that Saddam Hussein was born on the same day as both of us,” he tells HOH. “Regardless, I am sure that Monroe and I are both in better places and cooler climates than our more notorious fellow Taurus.”

Step Right Up. Despite the talk that the Democratic National Convention is going to be a hot ticket, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee isn’t taking any chances on leaving an empty seat in the house. The DCCC is bringing out the big guns by holding a sweepstakes, a la Publishers Clearing House, for one lucky supporter to nab a coveted spot in Denver.

“Do you want a front-row seat to this year’s historic election where Democrats finally un-Rove Karl Rove and put an end to the B-Rate Cowboy era?” asked Democratic strategist James Carville in an e-mail to Democrats on Monday. Similar e-mail letters from Brian Wolff of the DCCC, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic strategist Paul Begala also were sent to solicit entries to the contest. “It all starts in the wild west in Denver, Colorado at our Democratic Convention and I want you to be there,” Carville says in his QVC-worthy pitch.

While Carville doesn’t promise to visit winners’ houses with a giant check, he does ask for a $35 or more contribution in order for supporters to be entered to win tickets for the contest, which closes tonight at midnight.

Yet the fine-print rules at the bottom of the e-mail actually show that entrants can register without a donation, meaning a cheapskate — or a wily GOP interloper — could snag the ticket.

The prize, which will be given out by May 31, also includes hotel and airfare to Colorado.

Unsurprisingly, not all Republicans thought the offer from Carville, an adviser to New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, came from the goodness of his heart. “I guess Carville wants to pack the hall with his fans so he can steal the nomination” from Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), snarked one GOPer.

Tory Newmyer and Shira Toeplitz contributed to this report.

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