Heard on the Hill: Ensign Courts Disaster?

Posted February 5, 2010 at 4:07pm

After going through the Washington scandal-wringer, one would think that Sen. John Ensign might have learned to keep a safe distance from his staffers’ spouses. But the Nevada Republican, who last year admitted to an affair with a campaign aide (who just happened to be married to a longtime Ensign staffer), is at it again.

[IMGCAP(1)]Ensign has given copies to colleagues of a book about counterterrorism efforts written by Marc Thiessen, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. Thiessen’s other, more relevant, credentials: He’s married to Ensign staffer Pamela Thiessen.

Eyebrows were raised in some of the offices that got the book — not so much for its subject (yawn) but the fact that Ensign would “get involved with staff” in any way after his high-profile staffer scandal, one Senate aide said. Ensign gave copies to all the chamber’s GOP Senators and a dozen Democrats, too, his office confirmed.

If the book had come from any of the chamber’s other Members, HOH is certain no one would have blinked. But the maritally challenged Ensign is under a microscope, with a Justice Department investigation peering into the scandal, in which the Senator admitted that his parents had paid the husband of his mistress $100,000.

Doing favors for an employee’s husband might have gotten him in trouble once, but this time, it’s getting laughs. What really set some Senate staffers a-snickering about the gift from Ensign was the double-entendre humor of the book’s title, “Courting Disaster.”

Now that’s something the Senator knows something about.

Snowe-pocalypse Now. The SnowWoman still reigns supreme! The 122-foot snowwoman erected in 2008 in Bethel, Maine, and named after Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) still holds the record for being the tallest of its kind in the world.

The 13 million pounds of snow that made up the record-smashing structure are long gone, but visitors still occasionally show up in the town looking for it, says Robin Zinchuk, executive director of the Bethel Chamber of Commerce. “You’d think people would know that we do have summers here. … It’s not a frozen tundra or something,” she says.

The snowwoman, which the town voted to name Olympia SnowWoman, is no more, but the record lives on.

“Sen. Snowe always joked that it was just her luck that she’d have a world record-breaking monument named after her only to see it gone by summer,” Snowe spokesman John Gentzel tells HOH.

But look out SnowWoman — you could be dwarfed someday. Zinchuk says the engineer who designed the 2008 structure (and the previous world record-holder, built in Bethel in 1999) is considering another project.

Lights, Camera, Action. Charities hand out awards to Members of Congress frequently for their help with various do-good causes, but only a few Capitol Hill denizens get to walk down a red carpet to pick up their prize.

When Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) receives the fifth annual Courage Award from the nonprofit group Tracy’s Kids on Tuesday, she’ll get to do just that.

The charity, which uses art therapy to help children diagnosed with cancer, is hosting its annual Hollywood-themed fundraiser at the Regal Theatre Gallery Place Building in Chinatown. Guests will enter along a red carpet for the event — which, according to the invite, will be hosted by Chris Matthews — and will be treated to a buffet dinner at the Lucky Strike restaurant. Six movies nominated for an Academy Award or similar prize will then be screened in the nearby theater.

Wasserman Schultz, who is being recognized for her triumph over breast cancer, told HOH she is looking forward “to seeing a grown-up movie.”

“The movies that I see, because I have [twin] 10-year-olds and a 6-year-old, are not grown-up movies,” she joked.

Wasserman Schultz added that she’s excited to receive the award, calling Tracy’s Kids “a really wonderful organization that helps kids be kids instead of cancer patients.” But she admitted she’s “a little nervous because it’s always very emotional.”

“I want to do everything I can as a survivor to help reach out and just make the experience easier,” she said.

HOH hears Wasserman Schultz was given another tribute during a recent Democratic event in Utah, where small pink ribbon pins were placed on the dinner tables in her honor.

Overheard on the Hill. “To my friends at NBC, I have an opening for a constituent humorist specialist. If Conan would call my office, we could probably arrange to help you all out in any way we could possibly do that.”

— Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), offering a gig to ousted “Tonight Show” host Conan O’Brien at a hearing on the impending NBC-Comcast merger Thursday. Considering NBC paid Coco about $45 million to leave the network, we’re guessing he’ll decline.

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