Heard on the Hill: Our Favorite Filing, Ever

Posted February 4, 2009 at 6:23pm

Former Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) has maintained a low profile since losing his re-election bid last year, but he recently filed a legal motion to force the government to return his seized property, including a T-shirt picturing fellow embattled former Rep. James Traficant (Ohio).

[IMGCAP(1)]Except it actually wasn’t Jefferson who filed the motion at all — it was convicted felon Jonathan Lee Riches, who argued he is, in fact, Jefferson.

Jailed since 2003 after pleading guilty to charges related to an identity theft ring, Riches has whiled away the hours in prison filing thousands of lawsuits and court motions (usually handwritten) against, well, basically anything he can think of. Riches once alleged Elvis Presley stole his sideburns; in another, he argued half his brain had been stolen at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and sold on eBay.

Riches recently filed a motion with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia moving to name himself as Jefferson’s attorney. And that’s not all — he also moved to “correct a clerical ERROR” and have the court case altered to be formally against “William J. Jefferson a/k/a/ Jonathan Lee Riches.”

Riches then asked the court to return property that had been seized by the government, including: a “whirlpool freezer,” “mardi gras hats & buttons,” a “Back to Africa Dvd,” “Fannie Mae stock,” a “Mark Foley mask,” “Swanson T.V. Dinners,” “Green Giant Peas,” “Katrina driftwood,” “African Pride shampoo,” “laxatives,” “Viagra,” “photos of me and Senator Ted Stevens Fly fishing” and “photos of me and Jack Abramoff eating at Church’s Chicken.”

Not surprisingly, Judge T.S. Ellis III threw out Riches’ motions, and banned the court from accepting any more like it.

We just hope someone gets that Traficant T-shirt back.

Gibbs Is Pretty in Pink. Not that we haven’t been paying attention to what comes out of Robert Gibbs’ mouth (stimulus, blah, blah), but honestly, HOH’s attention has been focused a few inches lower, on the White House press secretary’s neckties.

In his first two weeks on the job, he’s given us a veritable Easter parade of Easter-egg colors on display behind the briefing room podium. We’ve seen powder blue, two yellows, two pinks, two purples, a green stripe, and what we could only describe as periwinkle — but not a single traditional bright red or blue power tie among them.

There was a navy cravat on Jan. 29 (yes, we’ve been keeping a Robert Gibbs Tie Diary), but we’ll chalk that up to anomaly.

And that’s welcome news for some fashion-watchers around town bored to tears by the usual reds and blues. Ethan Drath, owner of Georgetown menswear emporium Sherman Pickey, applauds Gibbs’ unconventional choices. “It’s great to see so much color, and I’m always in favor of shaking up the traditional Washington look,” he told HOH.

Drath wouldn’t buy into the temptation to psychoanalyze Gibbs’ neckwear choices. “You could think that, ‘Oh, he’s wearing softer colors, he’s trying to be friendly to the media,’” he said. “Or, maybe he wears them because he’s deferring, in a sense, but I don’t think it’s that conscious.”

His Southern roots — Gibbs hails from Alabama — might also explain the candy colors. Southern men are more comfortable in pastels, Drath said.

You have to admire a guy who, although he’s engaged in verbal combat with some of the toughest questioners in the news business, isn’t afraid to wear pink.

Brownback, Payne Get Hipster Stamp of Approval. Sen. Sam Brownback isn’t exactly the type of guy you’d expect to nab a compliment from bona fide rock stars, but the guys from the band Good Charlotte gave the Kansas Republican definite props on Wednesday.

Bandmates (and twins) Joel and Benji Madden were on Capitol Hill to lobby Brownback and Reps. Donald Payne (D-N.J.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Brad Miller (D-N.C.) about “conflict minerals,” materials such as tantalum that are mined in the Congo and used in electronic devices sold in the United States — with profits funding war in Central Africa.

And when HOH chatted in the Longworth House Office Building cafeteria with the Maddens on Wednesday afternoon, they described the Members as “really cool.”

“They were passionate, they cared, and they had all been to Africa. … That was really awesome to see,” Joel Madden said. “Brownback was a cool dude. Payne was a cool dude.”

Both brothers are spokesmen for “RAISE Hope for Congo,” a campaign by the Enough Project (which is the anti-genocide campaign run by the Center for American Progress).

Ultimately, the pair hope their Capitol Hill visit will lead to legislation that pressures electronics manufacturers to ensure the materials they use don’t fund conflict. “Our country being the big consumers of iPods and Macs and BlackBerrys and all that, we’re the funders and fuelers of this war, without even knowing it,” Joel Madden said.

Unlike some celebrity spokespeople, the Maddens appeared well-informed on conflict in Africa and even traveled to the Central African Republic with UNICEF last year.

That visit led them to take personal action — Joel said his daughter, Harlow (mom is socialite Nicole Richie) doesn’t own any electronic toys, while Benji hasn’t gotten a new BlackBerry in years, since he doesn’t want to support the mineral trade.

And while the Maddens grew up in suburban Maryland, Wednesday was the first time they’d ever lobbied Congress. “We’d love to come back if they want to talk to us,” Joel Madden said.

Jelly to Get Out of a Jam. Sen. Byron Dorgan on Tuesday night spoke of a magic elixir that HOH bets Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) would love to get his hands on. The North Dakota Democrat was on the Senate floor, railing against an amendment to the stimulus bill he argued would reward companies that move jobs overseas, when he used a slightly icky figure of speech.

“They try to slide it through here with a thick coat of legislative Vaseline,” Dorgan complained. “Just sort of slip it all through here while we are debating how to promote economic recovery in this country.”

Hmm, this “legislative Vaseline” he speaks of might come in might handy for Democrats looking to, um, grease the wheels for their legislative agenda …

Press Released. Try to follow this tidbit from the annals of the department of the absurd: Senate Democrats on Wednesday held a retreat at the Newseum. The Newseum is funded by the Freedom Forum, which is dedicated to “free press, free speech and free spirit for all people.”

But … the Democrats’ event was closed to the press. No cameras. No ink-stained wretches.

Say what? No scribes allowed in the temple dedicated to our very own shout-out in the First Amendment?

Newseum spokeswoman Tina Tate explained that the Democrats’ meeting actually was held in a conference center that although it’s within the museum facility, isn’t part of the museum itself. “Anyone can rent it,” she said.

A spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said reporters didn’t miss anything by not being able to cover the meeting. “Sen. Reid was a little off-key when singing Kumbaya, Sen. Schumer gave a little too much information in the sharing circle and Sen. Murray didn’t catch Sen. Durbin in the trust fall,” he said.

Overheard on the Hill. “Whereas team owner Dan Rooney and team President Art Rooney II, the son and grandson, respectively, of Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney, have remarkable loyalty to Steelers fans and the City of Pittsburgh, and have assembled an exceptional team of players, coaches, and staff that made achieving a championship possible …”

— Part of legislation introduced Tuesday congratulating the Pittsburgh Steelers for winning the Super Bowl. The bill’s sponsors included Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), who is part of the famed Pittsburgh clan.

Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.

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