Heard on the Hill: Luck of the Draw

Posted June 17, 2008 at 6:41pm

A few Members of Congress got especially lucky last year. Though many political types like to brag about earning their money the old-fashioned (read: hard) way, two Members made big bucks in another time-honored tradition — they won it.

[IMGCAP(1)]Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) reported in his 2007 financial disclosures winning $1,700 at the Olympic Casino in Estonia. Cardoza was part of a

Congressional delegation trip last July along with six other Congressmen — none of whom were as lucky. A spokesman said the Congressman took a solo after-dinner stroll while visiting the Eastern European country and popped into a casino near the hotel where the Members were staying. A coin in the right slot earned him the $1,700 payout, the spokesman said.

And Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) won $5,000 on a scratch-off lottery ticket he bought in his hometown of Chicago, he tells HOH. Davis says he occasionally buys scratch-off tickets, and has been a particularly good customer since earlier this year, when the Illinois Lottery introduced a game whose proceeds will fund AIDS charities.

He bought his winning card shortly before Christmas at a little convenience store where he often goes to buy a Coke or an ice cream bar before recording a weekly TV show in Chicago. He says he was thrilled — “I couldn’t believe it!” — and used the proceeds for a very good cause. “I spent it on my wife,” he confessed to HOH.

Davis and Cardoza aren’t the only lucky ducks in Congress: Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) both have made headlines in the past few years when they took home big-time lotto winnings. Lightning struck three times for Sensenbrenner, who won $250,000 in the D.C. Lottery in 1997, then racked up two $1,000 jackpots in 2007. Gregg won $853,492 with a Powerball ticket in 2005.

If it weren’t for all the truly bad stuff that happens to Members sometimes, we’d swear those Congressional pins were lucky charms.

I’m a Little Teapot. Sen. John Warner is such the quintessential Virginia gentleman. That’s why HOH wasn’t at all surprised to see that the Republican earned some cash last year through the sale of some genteel trappings. In his financial disclosure forms, Warner reported earning from $1,000 to $15,000 from the sale of an “electroplated novelty tea urn.”

The form noted that the date of the transaction was 1957, which Warner spokeswoman Bronwyn Lance Chester says is when he acquired the tea accessory. He sold it in 2007. “It wasn’t any sort of quick turn-around,” she noted of Warner’s long-term investment strategy.

But HOH can’t help but wonder what the well-mannered Senator is using to serve tea these days.

Gridders Boast of Battle Wounds. Get a couple old-timer football greats and bring up the subject of injuries and what do you get? Two guys trying to outdo one another with gruesome tales of medical woe and near-medieval medical practices of yore.

Legendary Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw (sporting a goatee) and beloved Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka were in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday with the Advanced Medical Technology Association to boast how new technologies can help repair injuries for athletes and improve the lives of those off the field. Still, the pair played true to their old-school form beforehand, dishing on how kids … er, players these days have it so easy.

But in their day … well, from the sound of it, it was one step up from leeches.

Ditka recalled injuring his knee during his rookie season, and being told to simply ice it. “There was no MRI, no X-ray, nothing,” he said. He played injured for weeks, only seeing a specialist after the season ended, and has had a loose knee ever since (and multiple hip replacements, he tells us).

Bradshaw shared a similar experience, reflecting on his toughest injury, which came during a legendary rivalry game against the Cleveland Browns back in the 1970s. The quarterback’s neck was badly injured after a violent tackle, and since Cleveland Municipal Stadium didn’t have an X-ray machine back then, Bradshaw was strapped to a wooden board and flown home to Pittsburgh.

Doctors, concerned that Bradshaw could be permanently paralyzed, instructed him to lie still in bed. Bradshaw recalled that every so often he’d feel an odd sensation in his foot, even grabbing HOH’s foot and poking it to demonstrate what it felt like. “They were sticking needles in my foot,” Bradshaw said, laughing.

And tough-guy Bradshaw’s biggest confession: He’s now facing another painful challenge — months of wearing Invisalign braces to straighten his teeth.

In His Shoes. Tuesday night, Members of Congress got to take Rep. John Lewis’ shoes out for a spin. The Faith & Politics Institute screened a documentary, titled “Come Walk in My Shoes,” chronicling the annual trip the Georgia Democrat takes to the scene of historic civil rights events. Since 1997, more than 100 Members of Congress have accompanied Lewis, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and former Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

The Faith & Politics Institute says it hopes showing the film to Members will inspire a few more of them to make the journey. Lewis spokeswoman Brenda Jones says her boss was pleased with the film’s portrayal of the annual pilgrimage. “He feels gratified that they have documented this journey with Members of Congress to the scene of what he views as a turning point in American history,” she tells HOH.

Briefly Quoted. “I don’t know what the rates are today.”

— Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), surprising reporters on Tuesday with his unfamiliarity with current mortgage rates. Dodd, who was explaining why he planned to keep his scandal-tarred Countrywide Financial home mortgages, is the chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.

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