Heard on the Hill: Strength in Numbers

Posted May 29, 2009 at 5:35pm

Forget the tabloid melodrama that is “Jon & Kate Plus 8— — there’s another super-sized reality show family on the rise, and they’re visiting the nation’s capital all this week.

[IMGCAP(1)]The Duggars, the wholesome, Arkansas-based clan who star in TLC’s “18 Kids and Counting,— are coming to town, planning to stop on Capitol Hill, tour the monuments and even help out the homeless.

Television crews from the Discovery Communications-produced show will follow Jim Bob Duggar — a former Member of the Arkansas House of Representatives who once ran for Senate — and his wife, Michelle, as they lead their huge brood, whose first names all begin with “J,— around the city.

As of press time, the Duggars’ exact schedule wasn’t set (the family is driving to D.C. from Arkansas and making several stops along the way), but a spokeswoman did confirm that the family is expected to arrive by Tuesday.

Aside from their large size (and those camera crews following their every move) the Duggars will be typical tourists during their D.C. trip. They’ll meet with their Member of Congress, Rep. John Boozman (R), take a Capitol tour and visit sites such as the Jefferson, Lincoln, Korean and Vietnam memorials, the Washington Monument, Arlington National Cemetery and Mount Vernon, the spokeswoman confirmed.

The Duggars also plan to volunteer at the local homeless charity Miriam’s Kitchen and meet with officials at Discovery Communications, located in Silver Spring, Md.

A Little Help From His Friends. Many Hill denizens know Peter Bis as the guy on Massachusetts Avenue Northeast who calls out greetings, gives you a word of encouragement and maybe suggests that you check out his blog.

Now he’s become a cause célèbre.

The city government is attempting to remove the large stash of Bis’ belongings, which are piled into several grocery carts along the sidewalk. That move has drawn fire from Bis’ many supporters — a group surprisingly powerful for a homeless guy, and one that includes Hill staffers, lobbyists and lawyers.

“It’s a big, bungled, terrible story,— says Aaron Houston, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project and one of Bis’ advocates. Houston passes by Bis on his morning commute, and like many other suit-and-tie types, has come to see him as part of the Capitol Hill community.

Bis’ supporters sent a petition asking the city not to remove him or his stuff against his will. A May 22 deadline when the city was set to clear his things was put off, and now there’s an effort under way to get Bis into suitable housing near his current haunt.

Clarence Carter, director of the city’s Department of Human Services, tells HOH that they’ve located an apartment unit for Bis and hope to move him in within a week.

It’s not clear how the story will end (Bis resisted a previous attempt to move him into housing), but one thing’s certain: It helps to have powerful friends. “I always joke that I’m going to hire Peter to lobby with me,— Houston says. “He has better contacts than I do.—

Call Him Rep. Money-in-a-Freezer.’ To members of a potential jury, the name “William Jefferson— might sound like a long-forgotten character from their grade-school history books, not the subject of a headline-making political scandal. But the attorney in former Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-La.) trial isn’t taking chances.

To ensure that the attorneys know which potential jurors are already familiar with the case, Jefferson’s lawyer, Bob Trout, asked that the jury questionnaire include something about “money in a freezer,— thinking that that’s how people might identify the matter. During a hearing Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Trout asked that the questionnaire include such a question, according to a Roll Call reporter covering the proceedings.

The suggestion seemed to amuse the judge. “Maybe nobody will have heard of money in a freezer’ or Congressman Jefferson,— he said optimistically. “I hope that’s the case.—

Blues Fest Looking for Greenbacks. It’s the stuff of which many a blues song is made: down on your luck, out of cash, lookin’ for a break. That’s the tune the Congressional Blues Festival is singing, with a lack of corporate sponsors throwing this year’s annual event into doubt.

In a message to its e-mail list last week, festival organizers wrote that the event, which usually takes place in the spring, might not happen in 2009, but they’re hoping to deliver good news later in the summer about a future date.

Ryan Costello, the founder of the annual concert benefiting struggling blues and American roots musicians, tells HOH that the tough economic times have made nailing down donors and sponsors tough. “We haven’t gotten any nos’ yet, just people saying they haven’t gotten their budgets together,— he says. “I know it’s going to happen.—

Spike Takes a Dive. Squeeze into that bikini and grab a bottle of sunscreen — “Top Chef— alum Spike Mendelsohn is throwing a pool party.

In fact, he’s hosting one from noon to 6 p.m. every Sunday during the summer.

The Capitol Hill restaurateur — who owns Pennsylvania Avenue spots Good Stuff Eatery and the recently renamed Greek Islands — is sponsoring “Spike’d Sundays,— a weekly sun-drenched soiree at the revamped Capitol Skyline Hotel on I Street Southwest (just a few blocks from Nationals Park).

For $10, guests get access to the newly swanky hotel pool, along with a burger grilled up by the chef himself. Drinks cost $5 or less. “Beach balls, rubber duckies, bad language and BBQ throwdowns welcomed and encouraged,— a press release notes.

Designed by architect Morris Lapidus (who also drew up the Fontainebleau in Miami), the Capitol Skyline originally opened in the 1960s but recently underwent a sleek makeover, incorporating artistic, modern touches including Frank Gehry-designed furniture.

Along with “Spike’d Sundays,— the hotel is hosting a slew of weekly events, including a Friday happy hour, hoping to lure young professionals.

Even Criminal Minds’ Need Fish and Chips. Those fanny-pack-sporting tourists weren’t the only ones who hung around after the city’s big Memorial Day celebration last week. Actor Joe Mantegna (the guy has been in tons of movies and seemingly every TV show of the past decade) was spotted on Thursday chowing down on the patio of the Dubliner restaurant near Union Station.

The “Criminal Minds— star was casually dressed, an HOH spy reports, and accompanied by what looked to be his wife and daughter. A Bluetooth in his ear and a constantly fiddled-with iPhone completed the regular-guy ensemble.

Mantegna had co-hosted, along with fellow actor and pal Gary Sinise, the big Memorial Day concert on the National Mall. The two have emceed the star-studded celebration since 2006.

Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.

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