Heard on the Hill: A Friend Indeed

Posted April 21, 2010 at 6:36pm

After Rep. Patrick Kennedy crashed his car into a Capitol Hill barricade late one night in 2006 (and subsequently entered a rehabilitation facility for prescription drug abuse), the Rhode Island Democrat found a friend in then-Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.), a recovering alcoholic.

[IMGCAP(1)]And when Ramstad presented Kennedy with an award at a charity bash Tuesday night for his efforts on mental health issues, Kennedy recalled the bipartisan friendship that he found in Ramstad during that tough time in 2006.

“I got in this little car accident, and it made a little news,” Kennedy joked, adding that Ramstad told him: “‘Don’t worry about it. I’ve been where you are.’ And I said, ‘I don’t think you’ve quite been where I am.'”

But Ramstad — who called Kennedy “the little brother I never had” — stayed by Kennedy’s side throughout his recovery and return to Capitol Hill. And that put Ramstad’s own political career at risk, Kennedy said.

“I offered to go in and campaign against him, if it helped him,” Kennedy joked.

Kennedy was honored during the annual fundraising gala at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel for N Street Village, a D.C. charity that helps homeless and low-income women by providing housing and other support. Kennedy praised his fellow Members of Congress in attendance for making it to the charity bash — noting several even stayed until the bitter end when he received his award.

“It’s amazing that any of them have shown up,” Kennedy said. “Believe us, I go to these events. None of us come to these things. This is a big deal … and to stay for the whole dinner?”

Jessica’s Life Lessons. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and other backers of universal education legislation were thrilled to have actress Jessica Alba on hand at a press conference to tout their bill, but the grade-school kids at the event seemed confused on one celebrity point.

Lowey was enthusing about Alba’s support for initiatives to bring better education to African kids and told the fourth-graders at the Tuesday event that “she’s travelled with Bono! You’ve heard of Bono!”

Actually, most of them probably hadn’t. While the U2 frontman has plenty of grown-up fans, the kids were probably more familiar with tween-pop singer Miley Cyrus than the alter ego of Paul Hewson, whose band’s breakthrough album debuted in 1980 (making him practically prehistoric to them).

Most of the kids nodded politely at Lowey’s statement, but a few just looked confused.

Alba, who looked demure (and thin) in a pale-pink cardigan and trousers, seemed more interested in heaping praise on Lowey. “Even before I had the honor of meeting her last year, I had heard of her leadership. … I am humbled by your work,” Alba said.

Alba was in the Capitol to launch 1GOAL, an initiative tied to the World Cup aimed at bringing universal education to Africa, where the games are being held in June.

And Alba wasn’t the only celebrity getting a warm reception on Capitol Hill: Reigning “American Idol” Kris Allen on Wednesday met with Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) to talk about his recent visit to Haiti with the United Nations Foundation.

Uphill Battle. Just about a year after a nasty skiing accident that temporarily put her in a wheelchair, Sen. Lisa Murkowski faced down the very same mountain where her ordeal began.

The Alaska Republican strapped on her skis and took to the slopes at the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, Alaska, in early March — where just a year ago, she tumbled about 400 feet and tore her ACL, her MCL and her meniscus. “She got right back on the horse, so to speak,” spokesman Mike Brumas tells HOH.

After the accident last year, Murkowski underwent surgery to repair the damage and used a wheelchair and crutches during her recovery, which included intense physical therapy. But all that was just water (or powder?) under the bridge last month, when she again decided to ski the slopes of Alyeska.

Why revisit the hair of the dog that bit her?

“She just loves skiing,” Brumas says.

Stirring the Pot. Astute HOH readers likely will recall the story of independent music businessman Ira Tucker, who was arrested last week for allegedly bringing pot into the Capitol Visitor Center while taking part in the GRAMMYs on the Hill lobbying day. Further details about Tucker’s arrest have emerged — and according to the Capitol Police, he was nabbed bringing in more than just a couple of joints.

According to a police summary report released Wednesday, officers spotted a “green leafy substance” in Tucker’s bag as he was being screened at the CVC. Officers searched Tucker and found “clear plastic bags containing a green leafy substance in his pants and socks.”

Officers also found “rolling papers” and “two medication bottles prescribed to someone else” during their search of Tucker and his belongings, the report reads.

Tucker was arrested on charges including possession of marijuana, Nexium, hydroxyzine HCL and the rolling papers.

In a statement released last week, the Recording Academy confirmed Tucker’s arrest but added that it “did not disrupt nor distract the efforts of nearly 250 music professionals in Washington for the day’s activities.”

Overheard on the Hill. “If @HarveyLevinTMZ follows my Twitter updates, you should follow my Twitter updates.”

— Rep. Aaron Schock in a tweet on Wednesday. The Illinois Republican, who garnered nationwide attention after gossip Web site TMZ posted pictures of him shirtless, is taking part in a GOP challenge to gain the most Twitter followers.

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