Heard on the Hill: Lee Doesn’t Want to Be Ayered

Posted October 22, 2008 at 6:40pm

If a book debuts and its author doesn’t do any media appearances, does it make a sound? Rep. Barbara Lee, the California Democrat whose autobiography features salacious tales of a clandestine abortion, an LSD trip and domestic violence, is apparently avoiding doing any book signings or interviews until after the presidential election, for fear of giving Republicans ammunition to use in attacking Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), whom Lee endorsed, HOH hears.

[IMGCAP(1)]Advance copies of Lee’s book began circulating in July, and the book hit shelves in August. Under the usual practices of book promotion, Lee would have been making the rounds of bookstores for splashy signings and readings to coincide with the debut. But the Congresswoman-turned-author has been curiously out of sight, and sources tell HOH that’s because she’s worried that some of the seamier details of her life story — including the fact that she was once a member of the Black Panther party — could make her fodder for Republicans sniffing around for more unseemly alliances of Obama’s.

“I don’t want to do anything to hurt Barack,” Lee has told acquaintances of her strategy of staying below the radar, according to a source.

Obama’s opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), has made much of Obama’s ties to other controversial figures, such as William Ayers, the now-University of Chicago professor who co-founded the radical group Weather Underground in the 1960s.

Even though Lee’s ties to Obama are minimal (Lee endorsed Obama during his primary race, but sources say the two don’t have a personal relationship), the Congresswoman doesn’t want to seek the limelight on the chance that she might become a campaign issue that would hurt Obama, the source says.

Sam Caggiula, Lee’s publicity manager with publisher Rowman & Littlefield, said he was told that the delay of the publicity push was because Lee is focused on the election and was too busy to schedule interviews until after Nov. 4. After the election, Lee will likely appear on the “The Colbert Report” and “Tavis Smiley,” he said. Other events include a Nov. 17 book launch at the Busboys & Poets in Washington, D.C., and a Nov. 18 appearance at the National Press Club’s book fair.

Lee’s agent, Diane Nine, said Lee is doing some events, including a speech to a group of independent booksellers. “The book is out there if anyone wants to read it … and she’s out there doing things,” Nine told HOH.

Still, with Lee winning her seat in the 2006 election with a very comfortable 86 percent of the vote, it’s unlikely that her own campaign duties are much of a heavy lift.

Hayden Panettiere Is No Lindsay or Paris. At least according to someone who would know: Paul Strauss (D), the D.C. shadow Senator who’s struck up an unlikely friendship with the “Heroes” actress and tabloid darling. “She’s really impressive — she’s a woman who’s serious about social justice and environmental issues,” he told HOH.

Panettiere apparently is a fan of Strauss’ too — she’s the guest of honor at a fundraising dinner for Strauss’ campaign in Washington on Saturday night. The actress has a busy weekend planned in our fair city, including a speech at American University and a Save the Whales rally on Sunday. Whales are Panettiere’s primary political cause, and Strauss said her involvement in his campaign to give D.C. residents Congressional voting rights (she also filmed a public service announcement for his voting-rights cause earlier this year) is a natural for the petite blonde. After all, whales need a voice in Congress, and so do D.C. residents, he said.

“If you’re out there fighting for the rights of vote-less mammals, well, I’ve got 600,000 of ‘em right here in the city,” he said.

Like Facebook, Only for Nerds, er, Wonks. There’s a brand-new social networking Web site these days — but this one is invite-only and targeted to those in the world of politics.

DistrictFile.com is the brainchild of Amir Oveissi, a former staffer for the Senate Republican Policy Committee. Oveissi officially launched DistrictFile about a month ago and describes it as “a social site for politicos,” a place for wonky types to create profiles, post messages and let folks know about upcoming events without the distractions (hmm, who’s posted new photos?) of sites such as Facebook or career-orientated LinkedIn.

“They’re crowded, and probably 90 percent of them don’t have to do with the career I’m in,” Oveissi said of his rivals. “Or you have 600 friends, and they’re not really your friends. This is more so you can try to network with people in your profession.”

About 800 people have joined DistrictFile thus far, Oveissi said. Most are based in D.C., although the goal is to attract members abroad, making it “the U.N. of social networking,” he said.

“Everyone on there is potentially connected somehow,” Oveissi said. “If you invite someone on there, you are kind of vouching for that member.”

Not all members have invite privileges, either. Only experienced political types (chiefs of staff, for example) get the privilege, whereas lowly Hill interns need to stay in politics a bit before they’re given the honor, Oveissi said.

“That kind of keeps it — not exclusive, but within the profession,” he said.

Ironically, Oveissi got the idea for the site as an intern. “There’s no central database where people can see, ‘Hey, there’s free food coming in,’” he joked.

DistrictFile hopes to fill that role, Oveissi said.

Dole Ad Doesn’t Add Up. Sen. Elizabeth Dole is locked in a tough re-election battle, but apparently somebody trying to help the North Carolina Republican is having trouble remembering what her job is.

Certain users of Google’s e-mail system Gmail might have noticed a “sponsored link” at the top of their inbox in recent days reading, “Rep. Dole For Senate — www.ElizabethDole.org — Sign Up To Help Elizabeth Dole & Become Part Of The Campaign.”

The flawed ad (Dole serves in the Senate, after all) led one giddy Democratic strategist to joke, “No wonder Dole’s been so ineffective — she doesn’t even know what chamber she serves in.”

But Dole doesn’t appear to be behind the ad. When HOH called Dole’s campaign, staffers conducted a thorough search of their ad database to try to find its origin, and found nothing, spokesman Dan McLagan said.

“It’s not ours,” McLagan said, adding that the search parameter used to bring up targeted ads for Gmail users might have created the error.

“Or somebody’s monkeying with us,” he said.

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