Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 6, 2016

Posts by Julie Ershadi

40 Posts

March 19, 2014

Moran Celebrates Central Asian Culture in Rayburn

Not done partying, even though St. Patrick’s Day has passed? Worry not: It isn’t the only holiday taking place this week.

Rep. James P. Moran, D-Va., celebrated Persian new year with a group of Tajik-Americans in Rayburn House Office Building Friday night, but noted that the less well-known holiday might be overshadowed. “Unfortunately you’re coming here kind of at the same time as another tradition: The Irish-American celebration of St. Patrick’s Day,” he told the crowd.


(Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

“There are a few more Irish-Americans than there are Tajik-Americans,” he quipped. “I’m still Irish, but frankly I try to avoid it: too much drinking and too much, uh, celebrating.” Full story

By Julie Ershadi Posted at 11 a.m.
Artsy, Parties

June 26, 2013

Lincoln, Alive and Sweating

Julie Ershadi / CQ Roll Call

(Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

What you see here is the face of patriotism.

It’s the prize awarded for tooling around outside the White House in the dead of a sweaty afternoon. This young man, who identified himself to HOH only as “Wayne or Abe,” is set to spend his summer walking back and forth on Pennsylvania Avenue, passing out coupons to the White House Gifts souvenir store.

And the proof of the young man’s patriotic affection? His suit is all synthetic.

“We have two suits. This is the bad one,” he said.

This poor guy has it rougher than the last White House Gifts toiler, James Ollerhead, whom CQ Roll Call last spotted in more temperate climes for a recent Capitol Lens.

June 25, 2013

‘Senatorial’ Actor No Virgin to Political Roles

The lead actor in a political video caught our attention with his saucy moves as a salacious senator who strips down to his red, white and blue underwear and pole dances for a pack of lascivious lobbyists.

As it turns out, Peak Kwinarian, who plays the senator, is no virgin to political roles. Kwinarian played a deputy committee chairman in an episode of “House of Cards,” the Netflix success that stars Kevin Spacey and romanticizes the dark underbelly of Washington politics. In a recent interview, Kwinarian told HOH that was a “high pressure” gig, but said he enjoyed working with Spacey.

An advocacy group for changing the role of money in politics, Represent.Us, posted the stripping ad on YouTube recently and is currently pushing to get it on national television.

“He’s very senatorial,” video producer Randy Hackett said of Kwinarian. “He looks like that kind of classic, patrician white-haired, New England type.”

“I think we could probably get him elected if he had the right campaign managing and team,” Hackett continued.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely — and not just because of the campaign finance laws with which Represent.Us takes issue. When asked about his view on politics as a career, Kwinarian said, “Why anyone would want to be a politician in the first place is beyond me.”

A Stamford, Conn., native, Kwinarian said his conservative sensibilities on health care, gay marriage and especially unions render him uncommon in his adopted home of Manhattan. Despite his views on unions, however, he is a member of the Screen Actors Guild. “You have to be,” he clarified.

Kwinarian considered the psyche of the senator he played in the Represent.Us video and wouldn’t condemn the fictional lawmaker’s actions. “I think he’s just probably more of a victim of the environment in which he was working and living, in which maybe a lot of politicians find themselves,” he said.

Kwinarian also works for the Onion News Network, where he plays an anchor named Brandon Armstrong. In a 2008 video, Armstrong argues with the fake CEOs of major motor companies for not making flying cars. We’re not kidding.



June 21, 2013

Skating Apparently Is a Crime!

Mary M. Thompson, 42, pleaded guilty on Thursday to spending more than $16,000 of federal money on personal items while working for the Health and Human Services Department, including roller skates!

Skating apparently is a crime, if you buy the skates on the government dime. (CQ Roll Call File Photo.)

Skating apparently is a crime, if you buy the skates on the government dime. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

According to a Justice Department statement, Thompson worked for HHS from 2010 to 2012. During that time, she was issued a government credit card and at some point started buying all kinds of goodies, including an iPod, pool cues and the roller skates.

Thompson faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

June 14, 2013

Before the Storm: Highlights Leading Up to the Congressional Baseball Game

Standing at the entrance to Nationals Park on Thursday evening afforded sightings of the big names and big quirks that convened for the 52nd Annual CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. Just a few highlights for the HOH reader’s viewing pleasure are below.

First off, don’t think for a second you can break out of the two-party system. It’s Republicans or Democrats all the way:

(Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

(Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., accepts an official game program from Mary Cadwallader.


(Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., rocks boat shoes, mini cargo shorts and hardcore sock marks around his calves. But we can’t fault him; a man’s got to wear socks some of the time.

(Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

(Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

Staffers Rebecca Nathanson and Karen De Los Santos were ready to root for their boss, Rep. Adam “Adam Bomb” Smith, D-Wash.

(Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

(Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

And finally, what would a game in Nationals Stadium be without the mascots?

(Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

(Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

Here’s to next year.

The Baby-Faced Assassin | Overheard

“Raul Ruiz: The baby-faced assassin!”

– Unidentified staffer at Thursday’s 52nd Annual CQ Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game, enthusiastically assessing the freshman California Democrat.


(Rep. Raul Ruiz Facebook Page)

(Courtesy Rep. Raul Ruiz’s Facebook Page)

June 12, 2013

‘Senator’ Strips for Cash in Campaign Video (Updated)

Updated 3:45 p.m. | An effort to pass a campaign finance overhaul bill gets racy in its most recent move to get money out of politics.

In a YouTube video published this morning, the Represent.Us campaign to “end corruption” and “get America back” portrays a fictional senator stripping down to his Old Glory underpants and allowing a pack of lobbyists to jam dollar bills just about everywhere, right up to where the sun don’t shine.

That’s a flag we don’t need waved. As our pals at sister blog Political MoneyLine wrote, “Members of Congress will not like it. Most viewers will not like it. But that may be the point they are trying to make about soliciting campaign funds.”

Randy Hackett, the ad man behind the video, produced it pro bono, Represent.Us Director Josh Silver said. “He cares so much about the issue.”

For his part, Hackett said he wanted to make sure the video would get people’s attention.

“Did it turn you on?” he asked HOH. “It’s not supposed to,” he added — but only after we conceded that yes, it did, just a little. “It’s supposed to repulse people,” he said.

Peak Kwinarian, the actor who plays the salacious senator in the video, said he was taken aback by the pseudo-patriotic drawers the creators asked him to wear for his role.

“When I originally saw them, I did have a moment there,” he said. “[But] it’s not the actual flag. … I wasn’t desecrating the flag.”

Kwinarian said this was his first foray into exotic dancing, though he said he did once wear high heels and play a woman in a musical called “Zombies From the Beyond.”

“It was a campy piece,” he clarified.

The video is only the most recent move in the campaign to get a draft of legislation known as the American Anti-Corruption Act a vote in Congress. Former Federal Election Commission Chairman Trevor Potter drafted the act. Its website says the measure would transform how elections are financed, how lobbyists influence politics and how political money is disclosed.

NSA Is ‘Aware’ of Impending Trolling

Hours after his testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee this afternoon, National Security Administration Director Keith Alexander might have to answer to a much more formidable force: a legion of ticked-off netizens who will be sending deliberately loaded messages to test the NSA’s capabilities. But according to the NSA’s press flacks, the agency is “aware” of the situation.

Operation Troll the NSA invites users to send off buzzword-heavy messages at 7 p.m. EDT tonight in the hopes of jamming up the NSA’s behemoth domestic surveillance system known as PRISM. Full story

June 10, 2013

‘Dirty Wars’ Director Dishes About Tight-Lipped Members of Congress

LOS ANGELES — Interviewing Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., about drone warfare was both frustrating and enlightening, the director of the new documentary “Dirty Wars” told a sold-out screening here about talking to the member of the Senate Intelligence Committee about classified targeted-killing campaigns.

“It was completely comical sitting down there in that interview,” Richard Rowley told an after-film discussion audience on June 7 about his visit with Wyden.

Rowley discusses the new documentary at a screening in West L.A. Jun. 7. (Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

Rowley discusses the new documentary after a June 7 screening in Los Angeles. (Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

Full story

June 6, 2013

John Yoo on Rice Pick: ‘I Just Don’t Get It’

LOS ANGELES–The former Justice Department official who formulated the Bush administration’s legal justification for torture diverted a panel discussion here on drones and due process to slam Susan Rice’s appointment to be national security adviser.

“I have to say, I’m very surprised that the president would pick someone who’s so embroiled in a current congressional investigation to be national security adviser,” John Yoo, now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said Wednesday. “I just don’t get it.”

Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call

Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call

He likened President Barack Obama’s pick to if Ronald Reagan had made Oliver North his national security adviser in the wake of the Iran-Contra Affair. The comparison drew laughter from the audience, in part an assemblage of lawyers and judges from the Federalist Society and Libertarian Law Council.

Yoo, no stranger to congressional heat himself, might have a bone to pick with Obama. Shortly after taking office in 2009, the president issued an executive order reversing U.S. policy on enhanced interrogation techniques by revoking and repudiating the legal rationales developed by Yoo and others in the administration of George W. Bush.

“I think it’s a bad choice,” Yoo told HOH after the discussion.

By Julie Ershadi Posted at 8:47 a.m.

May 23, 2013

D.C. Log Cabin Republicans Fete Ex-Rep. Jim Kolbe

The Washington, D.C. chapter of organized gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Republicans hosted former Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., and his husband at a small mixer Wednesday night.

The D.C. Log Cabin Republicans convened the event at the Roosevelt Camden apartments on 16th Street Northwest to discuss the Senate immigration bill and Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy’s withdrawal of his amendment to include consideration for LGBT families in the bill’s provisions at this week’s markup.

Kolbe and Kruse listen to a Log Cabin moderator's question. (Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

Kolbe and Kruse listen to a Log Cabin moderator’s question. (Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

Kolbe expressed a personal and professional stake in the matter. Full story

May 20, 2013

Take Five: Sen. Christopher S. Murphy

It’s time again for Take Five, HOH’s opportunity to get to know a member of Congress better through five fun questions. This week, Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., discusses Senate hazing rituals, pizza and memories of Tom Petty.

Sen. Christopher S. Murphy is the youngest current U.S. senator. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo.)

Murphy is the youngest current senator. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Q. How does it feel to be the youngest current senator? [Murphy turns 40 on Aug. 3.]

A. Once you get beyond all the hazing, the wedgies and the wet willies, it’s not a bad position to be in. It certainly perks up the ears of kids in the room [in my district] when I tell them I’m the youngest member of the Senate. Full story

May 17, 2013

An Insourcing Sauce-Fest at Sonoma

Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar made for a fine setting for the Organization for International Investment’s annual Capitol Hill Insourcing Reception.

The staffers and business representatives who attended the Thursday night affair had the second floor lounge Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar largely to themselves.

The RSVP list broke down heavily on the side of congressional staffers, followed closely by dues-paying OFII members. Of the eight lawmakers on the list, only Reps. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., and Bill Foster, D-Ill., made it to the event — a bipartisan, if modest, showing.

Foster, center, chats with business advocates Thursday evening. (Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

Foster, center, chats with business advocates on Thursday evening. (Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

Reception attendee Carol Danko, press secretary for New York Republican Rep. Michael G. Grimm, told HOH that between votes and allergies, her boss was tied up. Meanwhile, a staffer for the absent Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., topped off a fresh glass of white wine with the dregs of an old one between quips with her colleagues.

The OFII is a nonprofit business association that lobbies lawmakers on behalf of the U.S. operations of foreign companies that join its ranks. The organization provided every attendee at Thursday night’s gathering with a beer glass and mini bottle of spirits procured by Diageo, the social lubricants giant.

(Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

(Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

In addition to the party favor, an open bar kept the spirits flowing and a flotilla of heavy hors d’oeuvres, including grilled shrimp and mini crab cakes, filled bellies.

The star of the evening was Jonathan R. Otto, public affairs specialist for automotive giant Honda’s government relations office. Otto won the raffle prize, a weekend stay with deluxe accommodations at the Foggy Bottom Ritz-Carlton.

(Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

(Julie Ershadi/CQ Roll Call)

May 15, 2013

Library of Congress Hosts Ode to Copyright

Lawmakers and their spouses sat down to a performance of well-known hits at a Tuesday night concert in the Library of Congress.

“We love music,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said of he and his wife, Kelley, who was also present at a reception before the concert. “I think one of the amazing things is to see the writers perform their own songs.”

“He loves to do things like this when I’m in town,” Kelley Paul said of her husband. “If I’m not, he tends to get sucked into his regular meetings.” Full story

May 13, 2013

Sen. Johnny Isakson | Take Five

It’s Tuesday and time for another Take Five, HOH’s chance to get to know a member of Congress with five lighthearted questions relatively unrelated to legislative work. This week, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., dishes on Peach State cuisine, T-ball versus ballet and life in multiple legislatures.

Q. What is your favorite food and why?

A. Fried chicken. It’s really very simple: My mother cooked the best fried chicken anybody ever cooked, and I grew up eating fried chicken every Sunday after church for lunch. Full story

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