Get Ready for Your Close-Up

Posted June 10, 2008 at 6:39pm

Beware those camera-toting folks outside Capitol office buildings. They might not be tourists, whose worst offense would be asking you for directions or to snap a photo of them with their families. They might be the paparazzi.

[IMGCAP(1)]Gossip Web site TMZ.com, which is most famous for “gotcha” photos and videos of Hollywood stars caught engaging in all manner of embarrassing behavior, from temper tantrums to nose-picking to unflattering wardrobe choices, has again set its lens on Congress.

Rumors have swirled that TMZ was planning to set up a Washington bureau, and now avid readers (oh come on, admit it) are seeing an uptick in Congressional postings. In the past week, two Members, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), have been

the subject of TMZ’s videos. Both were stopped outside their Capitol Hill offices and fielded questions from a TMZ cameraman. The Second Amendments, the rock band featuring several House Members, also was the subject of a TMZ post this week.

TMZ Managing Editor and founder Harvey Levin tells HOH the Web site has a permanent presence in Washington that includes a full-time producer, and its gossip hounds are officially on the prowl for more Beltway material. “We’re here to stay, and hopefully, grow,” he tells us.

Members of Congress aren’t instantly recognizable, a la TMZ staples like starlets Lindsay Lohan and Jessica Alba, but they do make for entertaining subjects, he says. “These are people who have a lot of power and they’re entertaining and they’re characters,” he says.

Hill staffers whose job it is to protect their boss’s images don’t appear too worried that Members will make juicy fodder — at least for TMZ’s mainstream audience. “For every story about Eliot Spitzer, his friends and his socks, there are 45,000 boring ones, and TMZ won’t be able to hold the attention span of their average viewers if they go heavy on political coverage,” says one senior GOP press secretary about the former Democratic New York governor.

Still, the press secretary joked that he’s now taking extra precautions. “I will always make sure that the Congressman is wearing underwear when he steps out of a vehicle,” he said, referring to those infamous photos of Britney Spears revealing her disdain for ladylike underpinnings. “We all saw what happened to Brit-Brit.”

Bugging Out. Congress-haters — and there always seem to be more of them in presidential election years, when Washington-bashing is ever more in vogue — often liken the denizens of the Capitol complex to vermin.

But here’s a reminder that the venerable buildings of the Capitol campus really are teeming with creepy crawlers: The Architect of the Capitol has released a request for proposals seeking a contractor for pest-control duties.

Whichever company is selected for the gig will be charged with the extermination of “cockroaches, indoor populations of ants and flies, indoor winged termite swarmers, spiders, [and] rodents,” according to the request. They’ll also have to eliminate “nests of stinging insects” and “mosquito larvae in all exterior locations.” The contractor will have access to an entomologist, who’ll help identify “strange and unusual insects.”

Reading the proposal request might conjure up images of giant cockroaches and mean-looking rats, but AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki assured HOH the Congressional campus isn’t facing a new pest invasion. There’s a long-term, environmentally friendly pest management plan already in place, and the AOC simply released the proposal request because the current pest control contract ended, she says.

“This is a standard part of the routine maintenance and care of the Capitol complex,” Malecki said. “It is standard procedure to request bids when the current contract is up.”

Fun with the FCC. The Federal Communications Commission gets a bad rap. The agency sometimes doles out fines to TV stations for showing inappropriate things (Janet Jackson, we’re looking at you) and thus gets labeled as the moral police.

But during the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation’s annual awards dinner on Monday night, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps showed he has a naughty side himself. While presenting an award, Copps expressed disappointment that he didn’t get to share the stage with Miss America, Kirsten Haglund, telling the audience: “They used to let me do Miss America.”

Cameras flashed to Haglund, who just laughed off the joke.

While the beauty queen was perhaps the prettiest attendee, the biggest star clearly was music icon Quincy Jones, who received the NABEF Leadership Award for his efforts to help underprivileged children and others in need. Jones told HOH before the dinner that he hopes the next president will help increase music awareness.

“One of my pet peeves is that everyone around the world knows more about [American] music than Americans,” Jones said.

Delivering Baby (News). When a piece of legislation makes it to the House floor, many Members take time to thank their behind-the-scenes staff for helping get the bill through the chamber. So it wasn’t a surprise when Rep. Danny Davis did that on Monday, thanking staffers who worked on legislation that makes reforms at the Government Accountability Office.

The Illinois Democrat specifically mentioned Tania Shand, the staff director of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia. But aside from her legislative efforts, he made sure to congratulate her on an upcoming special delivery.

“At the end of the week, she is going to spend a little bit of time at home and perhaps in the hospital, not very much, but delivering a new voter for the United States of America,” Davis said. “And she tells me that in all likelihood it will be a Democrat, and so we congratulate her and her husband and wish them well.”

It’s the first child for Shand, who told HOH she’s expecting to deliver a girl, Maya Hendricks, by c-section on June 19. And while Shand is clearly excited about the impending arrival, she seemed a little bit embarrassed by all the attention.

“You know, the bigger issue is the GAO,” she said. “That really is a big deal.”

Alien Invasion? Staffers working for the re-election campaign of Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) blamed something “suspicious and fast-moving” for technical glitches in the campaign Web site on Tuesday. The problems started after they posted the 35 articles of impeachment that Kucinich introduced against President Bush on Monday night.

Hmm. “Suspicious and fast-moving” could describe UFOs, a phenomenon that Kucinich says he once witnessed. Could aliens be to blame, HOH wondered?

Kucinich staffers instead suspect there were all-too-human hands at work. Campaign spokesman Andy Juniewicz tells HOH that staffers suspected the Web site might have been sabotaged, based on technical reasons and the timing of the problems, which started immediately after Kucinich made his anti-Bush move.

He tells HOH that aides are working to restore the site, all the while fielding calls about the impeachment effort.

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