Heard on the Hill: If Biden Had a Hammer

Posted October 6, 2008 at 6:44pm

In the vice presidential debate last week, Sen. Joseph Biden tried to show his membership card for the “Joe Six-Pack” club by boasting of spending “a lot of time” in his local Home Depot. Turns out, the admiration the Delaware Democrat has for his favorite hardware store is mutual: A Wilmington, Del., branch of the retailer has put up a banner thanking its most famous customer.

[IMGCAP(1)]“Thank You Senator Biden For Shopping At Our Home Depot Store,” reads the sign stretched across an entrance to the Home Depot on Miller Road in Wilmington, near the Senator’s home. The sign went up Friday afternoon, just hours after Biden talked in the debate about how he stays in touch with the regular folk. “Look, all you have to do is go down Union Street with me in Wilmington or go to Katie’s Restaurant or walk into Home Depot with me where I spend a lot of time and you ask anybody in there whether or not the economic and foreign policy of this administration has made them better off in the last eight years,” he said.

Although some of Biden’s critics have gleefully pointed out that Katie’s actually closed years ago, a Home Depot source says Biden does, in fact, frequent the store “quite a bit.” Biden usually visits on weekends, sometimes accompanied by his wife, Jill, and sometimes solo. He’s most often spotted in the garden department, our spy says, where he’s been known to pick up lawn and garden supplies, presumably to spiff up the couple’s nearby home.

Employees, some of whom chat with the silver-haired vice presidential aspirant on his visits, were “thrilled” by the shout-out that Biden gave the store during the televised national debate last week. “The store associates were all really proud, and they’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback,” HOH’s Home Depot insider says.

And lest anyone assume that Home Depot is in the (toilet?) tank for Biden’s ticket, they should note that his rival, Alaska Republican Gov. Sarah Palin, made a speech Saturday before a cheering crowd at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

Out of the Frying Pan … Rep. Jim Marshall is among the Members who risked political suicide last week by voting in favor of the Wall Street bailout bill. Knowing that decision might be unpopular among voters, the Georgia Democrat took out a campaign ad to explain his vote.

But now the ad is creating controversy because it was filmed at the downtown office of Perkins Coie, a firm that has undertaken lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.

After all, if there’s any group hated worse than those Wall Street fat cats, it’s lobbyists.

In the ad, Marshall sits atop a Congressional- looking desk, with the view out the window a dead ringer for that of any House office building. He explains that he voted for the bill because “you elected me to do what’s best for America, not what’s easy.”

But Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, didn’t find the ad so convincing, telling HOH: “I imagine Georgia voters won’t find Marshall’s explanation so endearing when they learn that while he was claiming to stand up for them, he was really standing in the office of a Washington lobbyist.”

But that’s just not the case, according to Marshall spokesman Doug Moore.

Marshall’s only relationship with Perkins Coie is that the firm provides the official election lawyers for the Democratic Party, Moore said. When Marshall was seeking a spot to film the ad, he needed a locale that looked like a Congressional office — because legally, campaign ads can’t be filmed in government buildings — and the Perkins Coie offices were a perfect fit.

Plus, as Moore points out, lobbying represents only a small fraction of the firm’s overall business.

Tempest Over a T-Shirt. The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation has spent the past year engulfed in a labyrinthine legal battle, involving months of explosive depositions, a tumultuous trial and, ultimately, a shocking verdict requiring the organization to fork over more than $20,000.

And it was all over a bunch of T-shirts.

According to court documents obtained by HOH, the drama started in summer 2007, when the foundation met with local T-shirt vendor Promocorp Inc. to order 5,000 commemorative shirts for its annual legislative conference.

CBCF officials gave Promocorp the image that they wanted printed on black shirts, and even though the company warned that the design wouldn’t show up well and instead recommended white T-shirts, the CBCF insisted on its plan.

CBCF officials approved of Promocorp’s sample but asked that the image include more vibrant shades of blue and red. The vendor complied, but when the shirts arrived, CBCF officials still didn’t think the image was “red enough” and refused to pay for them.

So Promocorp sued.

“This is 5,000 items; it’s not a small order for us,” said Charles Gormly, an attorney for Promocorp. “We think a lot of the dispute is related to the quality, [which] we warned was going to be a problem given their specifications.”

Apparently D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Alfred Irving Jr. agreed. On Sept. 22, he ordered the CBCF to pay Promocorp $20,750 for the shirts.

The CBCF was mum on the ruling, with spokeswoman Muriel Cooper classifying the case as nothing more than “a vendor dispute over the quality of the product.”

And so the story ends.

“Obviously, it is unlikely that we will do business with them in the future,” Gormly said. “And that’s unfortunate, but … they can’t walk away from a $20,000 bill.”

John McArdle contributed to this report.

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