Heard on the Hill: Days of Wine and Scandals

Posted October 20, 2008 at 6:32pm

It’s not the Mayflower Hotel yet, but the Capitol Hill wine bar Sonoma can now be inducted into an exclusive club — it’s the setting for a scene that’s figuring into a good old Washington sex scandal.

[IMGCAP(1)]The Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast wine bar, heretofore better known for its fine cabernets and merlots, has gotten attention for being the place where Rep. Tim Mahoney, who is now embroiled in a controversy over his “multiple” admitted extramarital affairs, got into a spat earlier this year.

The Florida Democrat got into a reported “tiff” with Army Corps of Engineers Col. Paul

Grosskruger at Sonoma back in March, according to a story that ran at the time in the Palm Beach Post. But it wasn’t until recent revelations of Mahoney’s extramarital affairs that the reported row got a second look, with some bloggers suggesting that the two men were arguing over a woman.

Mahoney has denied that the fight was related to one of his affairs. The confrontation was not over a woman, Mahoney said in an ABC News interview on Friday, in which he also confessed to using poor judgment and admitted to letting down his constituents and family.

Now, we’re not saying the Mahoney connection will make the wine bar trump prominent Washington scandal sites such as the Mayflower, where former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer met a hooker — and the end of his political career — or the Tidal Basin, where stripper Fanne Foxe (in the company of former Arkansas Democratic Rep. Wilbur Mills) took a dip.

HOH couldn’t reach a Sonoma manager, but we are hereby nominating the wine bar for a stop on the tour of Washington’s scandal sites.

Seeds of Discontent. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) fretted during last week’s presidential debate that voter fraud by the group ACORN was threatening to unravel “the fabric of our democracy.” Given the gravity of that charge, it’s no wonder that anyone affiliated with baby oak trees is feeling a tad defensive.

Republicans are making much of the nefariousness of ACORN — the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — but the effects of those attacks have been spilling over to other similarly named groups.

The Acorn newspapers in California — five local papers near Los Angeles all named after the seed of the tree that grows so prolifically in the area — even had to write an editorial clarifying that they’re not THAT Acorn, thank you very much. John Loesing, the papers’ managing editor, told HOH that concern from advertisers and a few readers prompted the editorial. The Acorn papers do not endorse national candidates or wade into presidential politics, he said, but some people nonetheless were confused about the link the papers might have to the latest political punching bag.

In the editorial, the paper also listed a few other Acorns they are not affiliated with, including Arlington, Va.’s library system — the Arlington County Online Resource Network — and the Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods in Virginia.

But the saving grace of being mixed up in a political scandal is that like anything in politics, the storm will blow over quickly. “Like many angles in the presidential campaign, it will be a story for three or four days, but then it’s over,” he said.

The Senate On Sale. With the economy in shambles, many folks are looking to make a quick buck by selling their shabby couches or defunct stereos on Web sites such as Craigslist.

Apparently, the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms is trying to do the same thing, though the office’s sales method is a bit more bureaucratic.

In an official government solicitation, the SAA is offering up two parking station kiosks — brand new! — for the bargain price of just $7,668 each. Originally purchased from the Parking Booth Co. Inc., the kiosks are 8 feet by 8 feet, with 2-foot platforms, stairs, railings and a landing.

Just like a Craigslist ad, the solicitation features pictures of the two kiosks, along with some buy-at-your-own-risk advice. “A bidder may bid [o]n one or both Parking Station Kiosks,” the Oct. 9 solicitation reads. “Inspection of the kiosks prior to submitting a bid is strongly recommended.”

So why the big kiosk sale? Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer told HOH that the kiosks were ordered three or four years ago but never put to use. Since then, security technology has advanced pretty dramatically, and the chamber would rather get the newest kiosk model.

“We want to recoup our money and put it to better use,” Gainer said.

Bids are due Nov. 7, and the winning bidder will need to pick up the kiosks within 10 business days — and he or she best pay up. “Payment via certified check for the amount of the winning bid must be received by the Senate prior to pickup,” the solicitation reads.

Wrench Optional. Halloween costume update: HOH’s guide last week to off-the-beaten-path Halloween costumes was just a tad premature, coming as it did before the debut on the national stage of Joe the Plumber.

The country’s most famous sink unclogger, actually a guy named Joe Wurzelbacher — who skyrocketed to fame after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) invoked him during the presidential debate last week — could be a popular Halloween disguise.

CostumeZone.com is offering a “Joe the Plumber Special” of 20 percent off costumes in honor of the new political celebrity, according to an e-mail it sent customers last week. The company also offers a “plumber man” costume of overalls and a hat.

To complete the ensemble, HOH suggests adding a line about redistributing the wealth (of Halloween candy) to the classic “trick or treat.”

A New First Couple. The self-styled “Mayor of Capitol Hill” is taking a first lady. Warren Tryon, an aide to Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) on the Financial Services Committee whose man-about-town ways have earned him the mayoral nickname, is engaged to Emily Buell, HOH hears.

Buell is a former staffer for the Department of Health and Human Services.

No word on whether Buell got a ring or just a key to the city.

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