Heard on the Hill: Burris, Holding Court Even Without a Vote

Posted January 7, 2009 at 6:56pm

What’s a guy from Chicago to do while he hangs out waiting to find out whether he’ll get a Senate seat? Hang out at the Monocle, of course. Hey, if he can’t vote like a Senator, at least he can eat like one.

[IMGCAP(1)]Roland Burris found himself with some time to kill on Tuesday after the Secretary of the Senate refused to give the Democrat the Senate seat to

which Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed him. The controversial maybe- Senator was spotted at the Monocle, just steps away from Senate office buildings.

And Burris, who claims to be the rightful junior Senator from Illinois, is already building relationships across the aisle, something that the most veteran lawmakers say is key to success in the Senate. Sen. James Inhofe also happened to be at the Monocle, and the Oklahoma Republican visited with his perhaps-soon-to-be colleague. Inhofe was apparently tickled by the encounter and regaled colleagues with stories of it on Wednesday.

Who Needs Stimulus? Sorry, porn barons — it looks like you’ll just have to get your money from Washington the old-fashioned way.

Larry Flynt, Hustler publisher and PR stuntman, and Girls Gone Wild creator Joe Francis said Wednesday they plan to ask Congress for $5 billion to bail out the adult-entertainment industry in the face of tough economic times. But even the porn industry’s ostensible man in Congress — that would be Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), whose district includes the San Fernando Valley, sometimes referred to as the porn capital of the country — doesn’t have their backs. “I regret that two porn industry executives have used the current economic crisis to launch an obvious publicity stunt,” he told HOH. “As Americans face tough economic times, we need a serious discussion of the issues.”

Still, with all the struggling industries seeking help from Washington, the flesh peddlers’ request wasn’t so shocking. “It’s no surprise that the porn industry is also experiencing hard times in the Bush recession,” dead-panned one Hill staffer.

At least in this instance, it looks like Congress won’t be lending a helping hand.

Making It Interesting. With the Florida Gators and Oklahoma Sooners slated to hit the gridiron tonight in a battle for the college football national championship, it’s only natural that Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn (R) have decided to bet on it.

It’s a corny Capitol Hill tradition, after all, for Members to put up a bushel of regional food whenever an athletic championship is held. (There are so many of those wagers, in fact, that HOH is hesitant to write about them.)

But the bet between Nelson and Coburn caught our eye, since the loser is going to have to belt out a tune to the winner’s constituents.

A singing Senator? Now you’ve got our attention.

If the Sooners beat the Gators in the Bowl Championship Series title game, Nelson will sing the Broadway classic “Oklahoma!” at Coburn’s next constituent coffee. But if the Gators claim the win, Coburn must croon Elton John’s “Rocket Man” for Nelson, who traveled in space in 1986 and is a leading NASA expert.

Nelson proposed the bet to Coburn, and his staff seems confident he won’t be the one on the spot. “I don’t want to be rude to Sen. Coburn, but here’s how it goes: ‘a-rahhhh-kit — ma-yan,” spokesman Dan McLaughlin quipped to HOH.

Not all Members are putting bets on the contest: Democratic Reps. Dan Boren (Okla.) and Allen Boyd (Fla.) are co- sponsoring a game-viewing party tonight for their delegations and fellow Blue Dog Coalition members.

HOH expects the soiree will be a consolation prize for Florida Rep. Cliff Stearns (R), who gave Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a handwritten note asking her to alter the Congressional schedule so Members could attend the big game (and was — surprise, surprise — rejected).

Dude, Leave the Stash at Home. There are a number of things visitors cannot bring into the Capitol complex. Guns and knives, of course, are big no-nos, but items such as cans, bottles and even knitting needles also should be left at home, per security rules.

As should, (um, duh), illegal drugs — although 53-year-old Alan Marshall apparently didn’t get that memo.

According to Capitol Police, the Suitland, Md., resident entered the Delaware and C Street entrance at the Russell Senate Office Building at about 3 p.m. on Dec. 29. When he walked through the medal detector, it beeped. An officer on the scene conducted a hand search to figure out what set the alarm off — and subsequently found that Marshall was carrying “a green substance in a clear plastic bag,” according to a police summary report.

A police technician tested the substance, “which yielded positive results for THC,” aka marijuana. Police arrested Marshall and charged him with a misdemeanor count of marijuana possession.

HOH is inducting Marshall into our “dumb criminal” hall of fame — because when people on Capitol Hill talk about being “in the weeds,” they’re usually talking about policy.

Ad It Up. There’s Sundance, Tribeca, Venice and now, apparently, Washington.

And while better-known swanky film festivals are known to produce Academy Award contenders or at least arty critic-favorites, the “Politics on Film” fest will honor a D.C. favorite: political ads.

Set to take place May 7-10, “Politics on Film” will be the first juried festival for politically focused feature, documentary and international film, founder Gayle Osterberg told HOH.

But in an only-in-D.C. twist, there’s also a category honoring political advertisements. “There are a lot of festivals that have a short-film category,” said Osterberg, former longtime Hill staffer. “Political ads are something that is really its own art form.”

The Washington Political Film Foundation and Bipartisan Policy Center are co-sponsoring the nonprofit, bipartisan festival, and Mary Margaret Valenti, the widow of the late Hollywood lobbyist Jack Valenti, will be the event’s honorary chairwoman.

Submissions already are being accepted and are due by March 13. Osterberg said she expects that mostly independent films will be submitted for the inaugural year, although she’d like to see bigger Hollywood pictures screened in future years.

Lott and a Haircut, Two Bits. When HOH brought you the tale of former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) on Tuesday celebrating his coming-out party (as a lobbyist, that is, since the one-year ban that prevented him from lobbing Congress just expired), we missed out. An HOH tipster reports that Lott actually stopped by the Senate hair salon for a trim on Monday afternoon.

The well-coifed Lott might have been sprucing up whilst visiting a haunt of many lobbyists — after all, you never know who you’ll run into.

Overheard on the Hill. “Inaugration”

— An entry on the House Republican Conference Web site’s “Upcoming Events” section. Could the GOP be in denial?

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