Heard on the Hill: Shays’ Road Trip Stalls

Posted July 21, 2008 at 6:28pm

As the tabloids like to point out, celebrities are just like the rest of us. And the same goes for Members of Congress. Case in point: How many of us buy an expensive, lifestyle-altering item (exercise bike, kayak, etc.) that we think we’ll use all the time, only to have it sit and collect dust? Rep. Christopher Shays knows the feeling.

[IMGCAP(1)]According to the Connecticut Republican’s most recent financial disclosure form, he sold his RV on Oct. 5 for somewhere between $15,000 and $50,000, the same price range in which he bought the vehicle in September 2004.

Shays’ spokesman said the Congressman sold the RV because he was just too busy to go out cruising in it. “Given the job Chris has, which requires him to work full time in Washington and full time back in Connecticut, he didn’t have time to use and enjoy the RV,” spokesman Dave Natonski said. “I imagine he thought he would be able to enjoy it more, but just didn’t have the time.”

We hear you, Congressman. We said the same thing about that ThighMaster.

However, Shays did have the time to campaign in the vehicle, apparently. In 2006, his campaign paid about $12,000 to rent the RV from Shays, and in 2004 it paid him about $7,000 for use of the vehicle.

The campaign also paid $943 to insure the thing in 2004, and covered the $300 deposit Shays paid to the dealer, not to mention thousands of dollars for advertisements to stick on the bus and $1,341 in repairs in the days before the 2006 elections.

Maybe it’s a gas-price issue? In 2006, his campaign paid for three fill-ups, each costing about $200. That was back when gas averaged about $2.25 a gallon. Now the same fill-up would probably cost about $350. Even though Connecticut is only about 100 miles across, Shays would probably save a lot of money (and score points with the Sierra Club!) if he campaigned in a Prius.

Unbridled Bipartisanship Solves Energy Crisis. After months of furious debating and across-the-aisle bickering, a bipartisan group of Members finally has reached a consensus that could help solve the nation’s energy crisis.

The solution? Bring back those horses and buggies!

Republican Rep. David Davis (Tenn.) has joined up with Democratic Reps. Bart Gordon (Tenn.) and Heath Shuler (N.C.) to draft a measure that would create a National Carriage Driving Month, honoring the contributions that animal-drawn vehicles have made to American culture.

Scheduled for a floor vote this week, the legislation notes that vehicles such as horse carriages “helped settle and build the United States.” Unfortunately, when “machine-power vehicles” (read: the precursors to gas guzzling SUVs) took over about 100 years ago, animal-drawn carriages were largely relegated to the history books.

Though the Members aren’t exactly advocating a return to using carriages for day-to-day transport (House leadership would have to hold votes open for a lot longer than 15 minutes if that were the case), it’s still important to remember the contributions of the carriages and their animal workers, according to the text of the legislation. Tens of thousands of Americans still collect, preserve, drive and restore the carriages, showing them off in parades, shows and auctions, the bill notes.

OK, so horse carriages probably aren’t the answer to our energy woes. But with just two weeks left before the August recess, HOH is glad Members finally have come to a bipartisan agreement about, well, anything.

Senate’s Big Dig. The Senate Press Gallery is looking like an archaeology dig these days. The gallery that houses daily news reporters is gearing up for some remodeling, and to prepare, reporters had to clear out their desks — some of which house old files and other relics that go back decades.

While no one’s turned up any museum-worthy pieces, Gallery Superintendent Joe Keenan tells HOH he’s found among the mess old files on from-the-vaults topics such as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (from his 1991 Senate confirmation) and Ollie North. And he says he’s noticed a trend: The files stop sometime around the dawn of the Internet age in the 1990s, when many reporters apparently gave up stashing dead-tree documents they could access online.

One reporter turned up what he thought was buried treasure, when he found what looked to be a loose diamond amid the dust bunnies. His plans for an early retirement were dashed when a gallery staffer pointed out that most diamonds don’t have paint on their undersides. Sorry, dude, that’s a rhinestone.

Saturday Night’s Alright for Rocking. Pop legend Elton John played to a sold-out crowd Saturday night at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. Among those rocking out was Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), an HOH spy reports. The Congressman was spotted looking like he was enjoying Sir Elton’s performance from a private box in the rear of the arena. “He was all smiles,” our tipster says.

A LoBiondo spokesman says his boss attended the concert, but, alas, didn’t confirm said “rocking out.”

Testifyin’ to the Oldies. Break out those short shorts and neon leotards — peripatetic fitness guru Richard Simmons will be on Capitol Hill on Thursday. The perennially perky Simmons will take the witness stand before the House Education and Labor Committee to talk about efforts improve physical education and combat childhood obesity. In four words: Sweatin’ to the oldies.

Afterward, he’ll lead a “pep rally for P.E.” on the Cannon Terrace.

She’s Washing Her Hair. A date with Sen. Lisa Murkowski doesn’t run cheap — it could cost $2,000 just to dine with the Alaska Republican. Would-be dates be warned: Even if you dish out the dough, it could take months before you actually get to enjoy Murkowski’s company.

Murkowski auctioned herself off for charity five times in 2007, nabbing a grand total of $5,715 for good causes, according to her most recent financial disclosure forms. (The lowest bid was $250; the highest $2,000.) Winning bidders nabbed lunch or dinner with the Senator.

All the bids were made in February, October and November of last year — but Murkowski has yet to follow through on any of the dates, the disclosure forms show.

“They haven’t gone forward yet and actually had the meal,” spokesman Mike Brumas confirmed to HOH. “She just hasn’t had time in the schedule.” Brumas assured HOH that Murkowski plans to follow through on her charitable obligations, although nothing is on the calendar yet.

“I would assume by the end of the year they would be scheduled,” he said.

Briefly Quoted. “Lautenberg has apparently been BLINDED BY THE LIGHT and canceled his fundraiser. His fat-cat contributors will have to be DANCING IN THE DARK with SAD EYES as they recall the GLORY DAYS of free tickets and backroom deals. As for me … NO SURRENDER.”

— GOP Senate candidate Dick Zimmer, trying to set a world record for the most Bruce Springsteen references in one press release, while blasting his opponent, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), for marking up Boss tickets for a fundraiser.

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