Heard on the Hill: Fish Out of Water

Posted September 16, 2008 at 6:54pm

While hot-shot Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps tried to draw laughs on “Saturday Night Live” this week, his swimming teammate Ryan Lochte came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to attend to far more serious matters.

[IMGCAP(1)]Sporting his five Olympic medals (two of them gold) and a Team USA polo shirt, Lochte joined several Members at a press conference to urge reauthorization of legislation that would expand research on muscular dystrophy. It’s a cause near to Lochte’s heart, as he lost a family member to the disease.

And while Members backing the legislation couldn’t stop gushing over the Olympic champion, a very bashful Lochte told HOH he was “in awe” of life on Capitol Hill.

“I didn’t know what to say or do,” Lochte said of his first-ever visit to the Capitol. “I just kept my arms down by my side.”

Lochte’s favorite part of the visit, he said, was something enjoyed by hundreds of non-Olympians each day: Statuary Hall’s famed whisper spot. “That was so neat. That was awesome,” he added, smiling.

For their part, Members on hand couldn’t stop praising the Olympian.

“I left a luncheon with the vice president to come over and join Ryan Lochte,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss) said. “Guess what I’ll be telling my wife about when I get home?”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar joked that she was the leadoff in the relay of the event, as she was the first to speak. Not that the Minnesota Democrat could ever reach the Olympic games, at least for swimming.

“What I don’t want to tell you is that I had to take ‘Pollywogs’ three times,” Klobuchar said. “I had a little bit of trouble with the deep end in the second grade.”

Over in Lane Two. Ryan Lochte might be a rookie athlete-lobbyist, but a veteran of the sport also appeared on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. NASCAR star Jeff Gordon joined North Carolina Rep. Robin Hayes (R) to appeal for continued federal funding for the National Marrow Donor Program.

Gordon met with several Members to discuss advances in cord blood research and cell transplants. He’s visited Capitol Hill several times before, and he told HOH that he’ll keep coming to ensure funds reach the program, which has helped treat diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma and sickle-cell anemia.

“We’re going to make sure we send them plenty of literature to remind them of this visit,” Gordon said. “We’re saving lives. That’s the bottom line.”

A Really Expensive Gift (Wrap). With the financial world in serious trouble these days, most folks are, at the very least, cutting costs. The whole lavish spending thing really seems to be just about over.

So it really isn’t a big surprise that when a video clip surfaced in recent days of the wife of a top lobbyist wrapping gifts with actual money, it caused a bit of an uproar.

Edwina Rogers is the former associate director of President Bush’s National Economic Council and the wife of top Republican lobbyist Ed Rogers.

She agreed to appear in the pilot episode of “Power House,” a new television show that takes viewers into the homes of Washington, D.C.’s most powerful people. (Host Mario Correa described it as “Cribs for Wonks.”) The Rogers’ home is a perfect fit for the show — at 18,000 square feet, Surry Hill (yes, it’s named) has been labeled the Republican Shangri-la. (Translation: It’s in McLean.)

In the pilot, Edwina Rogers takes Correa into a room designed specifically for wrapping presents and storing shoes. She then asks Correa to help her wrap gifts using rolls of $1 bills, which she had ordered from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

“Isn’t it exciting? I only do it for small packages, not large ones,” Rogers gushes.

The duo then begins to wrap a gift, with Rogers cutting in the middle of several dollar bills. “As long as the gifts are small, then I don’t mind wrapping them in money,” she adds.

Although the show is still waiting to attract an advertising sponsor, somehow the folks over at the “Colbert Report” got a hold of the clip (Correa said he doesn’t know exactly how) and not surprisingly, had a bit of fun with it on Monday night’s show.

“You know the ideal gift to wrap in those dollars? A stack of euros,” host Stephen Colbert joked. Later in the segment, Colbert pretended to cry over the state of the economy, and he dabbed his eyes with tissues made out of fake $100 bills.

Correa told HOH that he isn’t surprised by attention the segment has received, what with the recent turmoil in the financial sector. But Correa also stood up for Rogers, saying she’s “a very nice person” who “just has some extravagant tastes.”

“You know, for all the excesses of the house, she is very forthright about it,” Correa said. “She does not pretend to be something she isn’t.”

She’ll Miss ‘What Not to Wear.’ Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) is often named as one of Capitol Hill’s most fabulous Members, known for being fashionable and popular, even attracting the attention of gossip hounds such as the folks over at Web site TMZ.com.

But while promoting her book, “Dream in Color,” alongside her co-author sister Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) at the National Press Club on Monday, the Congresswoman admitted there’s one notable area where she’s a bit retro.

“I have rabbit ears on my TV,” she said. “I have to do something.”

Sanchez was referring to the upcoming digital transition, in which television sets will switch from an analog to a digital signal. Older sets not hooked up to a special converter box won’t work after Feb. 18, 2009, when the switch takes place.

The Congresswoman said she knows she has to act to save her TV in her home in California, adding that she even had a coupon to get the $40 converter box but gave it away.

Still, there’s really no rush for Sanchez to get the box, because she’s been so busy lately promoting her tome — she and her sister will appear at the Trover Shop on Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast on Thursday evening to continue their book tour.

Crystal City’s Tent Town. Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain might have trouble keeping track of how many houses he owns, but a group of protesters managed to find one of them to rally at on Tuesday morning.

At least 30 people gathered outside the Arizonan’s Crystal City condo building to protest his policy positions on housing matters — particularly the fact that McCain owns so many homes.

Chanting “One, four, seven, 10, how many houses do you have again?” the group marched in a circle while others set up four camouflage-colored camping tents across the street.

An HOH spy noted that it “was kind of odd” to see the tents set up “across the street in a kind of upscale pristine apartment neighborhood.” About a dozen McCain supporters eventually showed up, chanting “John McCain equals change,” but they quickly were drowned out by the rambunctious group.

By the afternoon, however, most of the protesters had scattered.

Daniel Strauss contributed to this report.

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