Heard on the Hill: Home Improvements

Posted February 19, 2010 at 5:10pm

The decor of Congressional offices varies widely, with some featuring the personal aesthetic tastes of a Member (including everything from sports memorabilia to taxidermy) and others done up with souvenirs from a Member’s political career.

[IMGCAP(1)]But rarely does a lawmaker employ a professional architect to design his digs.

While perusing Rep. Jim Cooper’s most recent Statement of Disbursements report, HOH discovered that the Tennessee Democrat spent about $1,000 in June 2009 to hire Allard Ward Architects, a Nashville-based firm that has created plans for private residences, universities and other major buildings, for work on his district office.

Talk about office renovation!

But Cooper Chief of Staff Lisa Quigley tells HOH that the Congressman wasn’t playing the role of interior decorator — he needed to remodel the office for safety reasons.

“I can certainly see if it was like, ‘Oh, are they redecorating or are they getting new rugs?’ … That could raise some eyebrows,” Quigley said. But “this was for security.”

Many Member offices are located in federal buildings, which feature security measures such as metal detectors. But Cooper’s office, which he rents, is located on a busy street in Nashville, Quigley said. That makes it easily accessible for constituents but also an easy target for violence.

In the past year, Cooper’s office received several threats, and after a woman threw a brick through the office’s window, Cooper met with Capitol Police officials and ultimately decided to remodel the space to make it safer. All told, the Congressman spent about $30,000 on the office’s new security measures, Quigley estimated.

Changes included the installation of bullet-proof glass and the building of a new room to be used as a waiting area, which “still looks nice and inviting” but also protects staffers from harm, Quigley said.

Shirting the Issues. Want to gauge the political mood in the country? No need to rely on exhaustive polls or focus groups.

Just look at the T-shirts that people are wearing.

CafePress — the popular Web site where users can create, buy and sell original T-shirt designs — reported last week a dramatic surge in merchandise featuring former President George W. Bush. These aren’t the anti-Bush tees that sold well during Bush’s second term, either. The new shirts are pro-Dubya, modeled after a billboard in Minnesota featuring a picture of the ex-prez and the phrase “Miss Me Yet?”

According to CafePress spokesman Marc Cowlin, the emerging pro-Bush trend isn’t all that surprising. Turns out T-shirt sales really are a great way to measure the national mood.

Cowlin pointed out that when President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, about 95 percent of Obama T-shirts were in favor of the president. “Since that time, as the administration took office, we definitely noticed the anti-sentiment creeping up,” Cowlin said.

And with optimism among conservatives on the rise, it makes sense the last GOP president would get a little love. “It’s sort of a different kind of poll,” Cowlin said. “CafePress has become sort of a cultural barometer.”

Another Republican getting attention on the Web site? Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. After Palin wrote notes on her hand during a speech at the recent “tea party” convention, several items with funny phrases written on hands surfaced on the site, Cowlin said.

While the themes of political tees vary, there’s one line of merchandise that has stayed consistent: anything to do with the “Twilight” saga.

“That’s one of those ones that never seems to stop,” Cowlin said, laughing. “It’s such a craze.”

Ladies of Daytime. Last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference drew plenty of young right-wingers looking for a good time. But it looks as if some of the ladies who attended the three-day event at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park hotel received cash to, shall we say, charm some of the convention-goers.

An HOH spy came across an ad on the online classifieds Web site Craigslist seeking “[p]olitically conservative, outgoing, college-aged females to hand out free books and promotional materials” for an unnamed “New York Times best-selling author” during the CPAC event. “Females Extra $,” the ad proclaims.

“Attire should be business casual and appearance should be professional,” the ad continues. “Positive attitude, enthusiasm for the cause, and a big smile are required. Previous convention experience preferred.”

According to the ad, the convention gig paid $75 for working from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday or Saturday.

HOH e-mailed the poster to see how many people applied for the job (and what those who got hired had to offer), but alas, we didn’t hear back by press time.

Let’s Get It Started. HOH has got a feeling that Tuesday night’s gonna be a good night for some Members of Congress — financially, that is.

Several Congressional campaigns are scheduled to host fundraisers at Tuesday’s Black Eyed Peas concert at the Verizon Center, including Reps. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Glenn Nye (D-Va.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.) — although a Shimkus spokesman told HOH that the Congressman won’t actually attend the show. However, Nye will be in the audience, spokesman Clark Pettig confirmed to HOH.

Nye’s favorite Peas hit? The chart-topping dance track “Boom Boom Pow,” Pettig revealed.

And while Members won’t phunk with your heart, they might phunk with your wallet: Tickets for the various campaign events range from $500 to $2,000.

Overheard on the Hill. “Kendrick Meek is at the Gazebo Restaurant in Marianna, FL eating breakfast with Jackson County Sheriff [Louis] Roberts. Don’t worry, I didn’t do anything wrong.”

— Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), in a tweet posted Friday morning.

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