Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 1, 2015

November 21, 2013

Ex-Obama Aide Hosts Medical Fundraiser at Vendetta

Communications guru Scott Goodstein wants to thank the trauma team that came to his rescue after a life-threatening motorcycle wreck earlier this spring.

(Courtesy Scott Goodstein)

(Courtesy Scott Goodstein)

So he’s paying everything forward by hosting a fundraiser Thursday night at Vendetta (1212 H St. NE) benefiting the medical personnel that placed him on the road to recovery.

The party, which is open to the general public (one can RSVP via Facebook or Evite, but a promoter assured HOH it was not required), begins at 6 p.m. and will feature complimentary appetizers. Meanwhile, $1 from each of the specialty drinks sold will flow through to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

The external online director during President Barack Obama’s first bid for the White House most recently made headlines by having some fun with the government shutdown. His company, Revolution Messaging, put together the lawmaker-needling service.

Goodstein launched another campaign shortly after the accident, vowing not to shave until after his final surgery and inviting well-wishers to style his next facial hair configuration while also stumping for some charitable giving.

He seeded that initial pot with a $218 donation — and was since watched it grow into a $4,200-and-counting windfall for UMD.

November 20, 2013

Jim Cooper Muses About App Replacing the Newspapers It Depends on

Anna Giaritelli / CQ Roll Call

(Anna Giaritelli/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., believes government shortcomings and a concerned print news industry will soon be transformed into something more efficient.

“Our newspapers are dying. Dead tree products like this are having a hard time economically. The business model is not working and it needs to be replaced with something like iCitizen so that people can get the news they need,” said Cooper at  launch party for the new iCitizen app.

iCitizen combines data from a variety of news sources to inform users on issues, legislation and how to correspond with public officials.

A number of Nashville health care professionals, members and former members, including former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., rallied support for the product debut at the Ronald Reagan Building Pavilion on Tuesday night.

Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, another Tennessean, talked about the frustrations she has heard from constituents about the lack of reporting on select issues, but also noted the importance of community papers.

“I find it very interesting in my district, community newspapers that are specific to one area are very popular,” Blackburn said.

Interesting, too, that iCitizen relies on many “dying” organizations to provide news to users.

CEO Rod Massey listed the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Tennessee Tribune as examples of sources for iCitizen’s 8,900 separate data feeds.

“We’re just in our infancy as far as the sources we’re incorporating. … As we integrate more diverse sources, I absolutely see us bringing that from a variety of different venues,” Massey said.

Feeding Joe Biden

It’s Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s birthday!

(Courtesy HOH tipster)

(Courtesy HOH tipster)

According to our sources, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee elected to surprise the 71-year-old Delaware Democrat with a dozen donkey-clad baked goods — featuring flavors ranging from red velvet to chocolate marshmallow — special ordered from Sprinkles Cupcakes (3015 M St. NW).

No word from our DCCC friends as to how many of the frosted goodies, which were delivered at 11 a.m., VPOTUS may have indulged in during the friendly pop-in.

We just hope Biden didn’t ruin his appetite — because he’s presumably expected to chow down at a new sub shop opening up Thursday. (Stay tuned).

Five Gridiron Plays to Choose From | Capitol Quip


The five finalists for this week’s caption contest are ready for your votes.

Using the comments section below, vote for your favorite caption until 5 p.m. ET Thursday.

Here are this week’s finalists:

  • Good grief.
  • Wow, and nobody even pulled the football away.
  • Think the 5 cent Psychiatric Help booth still takes his insurance?
  • I bet he’ll be on the disabled list for 3 years.
  • That’s how it always ends, Charlie Brown!

The cartoon with the winning caption will appear on this blog on Nov. 24 and in the following print edition of Roll Call. The contest winner will receive a signed color print of his or her Capitol Quip cartoon from the cartoonist, R.J. Matson.

By Jason Dick Posted at 4:16 p.m.
Capitol Quip

Pooch-Loving Pols Seek to Fast-Track Pets on Trains Plan

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y. and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., brought out the big guns Wednesday — which is to say terribly photogenic little dogs — for yet another push to persuade Amtrak to let furry-footed friends ride the rails with their loved ones.

“It happens on planes all the time. So why not trains?” wondered Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council President Mike Canning. He portrayed the idea of keeping people and their pets together as a quality-of-life issue, particularly during the already stressful holiday travel season.

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Denham, right, and his dog, Lily. (Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Lead sponsor Denham, who also happens to serve as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, said he’d like to see his proposal signed into law early next year.

“We have opportunities to move this either as a stand-alone bill or  as part of the passenger rail re-authorization act,” Denham said.

Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman pumped the breaks a bit in terms of immediate action.

“We’re going to work with the congressmen. But we also have to make sure we’re doing it the right way,” he told HOH. Full story

By Warren Rojas Posted at 3:59 p.m.
Critters, HillSide, Reps

Honk if You’re Driverless | Madisonville

Vehicles that accelerate, brake and park themselves. Lane markers that keep cars on the straight and narrow. Children alone in a car that drives itself. No more accidents from fatigue, drunkenness or distraction.

Even in the presence of technology that would allow every American to watch C-SPAN on the road, members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Highways and Transit Subcommittee didn’t know what to make of the Brave New World seminar on driverless cars on Tuesday.

Madisonville-Logo(185x185)“I envision the day we’ll have these vehicles, like the Flintstones, or something,” said Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. Nevada Democrat Dina Titus provided him with a verbal poke: Didn’t he mean the the Jetsons? Ah, yes, Cohen replied: “Who? The Jetsons? Yeah, that’s the opposite.”

Cohen then showed that something driverless can keep moving. “I got a ticket — and I went to court on it, which was a mistake, I guess, for parking more than 12 inches from the curb, which I didn’t know was even the law. And I don’t think I did it. The car’s going to know 12 inches? I mean, how’s the car going to know the Memphis city code?”

New Jersey Democrat Albio Sires and Illinois Republican Rodney Davis saw a similar problem but from opposite ends. Davis worries that the autonomous car industry will overlook rural drivers. Sires wonders if the industry is too optimistic about urban areas.

“It’s hard for me to fathom a car in New York City being without a driver,” Sires said. This worry conjures up questions about whether these cars can scream obscenities without human assistance. Or what amount of body damage will an autonomous taxi consider acceptable to cross three lanes of traffic to pick up a fare?

“I used to have a ’65 Mustang that I did a lot of work on,” Sires said, taking the path of greatest nostalgia to another point, about the loss of backyard tinkering. “I can’t imagine anybody doing any work on these cars that are so sophisticated. I think it’s just going to put people out of work.”

Texas Republican Roger Williams, a car dealer no less, may know something about the market that advocates of autonomous cars overlooked. “Something like this is going to have to be able pull a horse trailer,” he said.

Publius Valerius Publicola

‘Alpha House’ Premiere Attracts Alpha Lawmakers

Durbin, left, speaks with Consuelos and Alter before a screening of "Alpha House" on Tuesday. (Niels Lesniewski/CQ Roll Call)

Durbin, left, speaks with Consuelos and Alter before a screening of “Alpha House” on Tuesday. (Niels Lesniewski/CQ Roll Call)

Two of the lawmakers who have called Capitol Hill’s real-life “Alpha House” their home away from home were among the distinguished guests on hand at a screening of the Amazon series Tuesday evening in D.C.

But Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., wanted to make clear that the real house was nothing like the one in the TV program, lacking the usual Hollywood blend of sex, drugs and violence.

“Violence would involve rats, drugs would involve Metamucil, and the closest thing to sex is pictures of our grandkids,” Durbin said of the row house he shares with fellow Democrats Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York and Rep. George Miller of California, who is the landlord. The fictional house is shared by four Republican senators.

One former roommate, retired Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., also attended the screening.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 11:48 a.m.
TV Land, VIPs

November 19, 2013

Trey Radel Facing Cocaine Charges (Updated)

Updated 5:44 p.m. | Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Wednesday on a misdemeanor charge of possession of a controlled substance, a court date stemming from a three-week old arrest involving cocaine.

Radel, center, makes a point at a May press conference. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Radel, center, makes a point at a May press conference. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In a statement, the freshman lawmaker said: “I’m profoundly sorry to let down my family, particularly my wife and son, and the people of Southwest Florida. I struggle with the disease of alcoholism, and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice. As the father of a young son and a husband to a loving wife, I need to get help so I can be a better man for both of them.

“In facing this charge, I realize the disappointment my family, friends and constituents must feel. Believe me, I am disappointed in myself, and I stand ready to face the consequences of my actions.

“However, this unfortunate event does have a positive side. It offers me an opportunity to seek treatment and counseling. I know I have a problem and will do whatever is necessary to overcome it, hopefully setting an example for others struggling with this disease.

“Please keep my family in your prayers.”

Updated 5:44 p.m.

When asked whether GOP leaders would urge Radel to resign, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner told CQ Roll Call: “Members of Congress should be held to the highest standards, and the alleged crime will be handled by the courts. Beyond that, this is between Rep. Radel, his family, and his constituents.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said “I feel very sad for his family, and bad,” at a BuzzFeed Brews event on Tuesday evening. “His leadership will have to deal with him,” she added.

The arrest, first reported by Politico, happened on Oct. 29 here in the nation’s capital. Radel, who has missed votes on the House floor this week, will have to answer to D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert S. Tignor.

A quick scan of the social media-obsessed pol’s Twitter feed on the day in question didn’t point to anything being out of the ordinary:

“Had some fun last few wks,” he alerted followers, touting signature time-wasters like his real-time reviews of SkyMall catalogs.

Then again, perhaps Radel was trying to clue us in about this little habit all along.

Back in March, he told HOH that Cartagena, Colombia — the one-time seat of the Pablo Escobar-controlled Medellin Cartel — was his favorite vacation spot.

Emma Dumain contributed to this report.

New App Vies to Become ‘Yelp for Politicians’

Rod Massey, the CEO of iCitizen, is excited about getting his new civic engagement platform into the rapidly texting hands of responsive voters and the social-media-savvy pols they most care about.

“It will show them how their constituents feel about the actions they’re taking,” Massey told HOH of the fledgling application that allows folks to keep tabs on what their elected officials are up to and “rate” the legislators accordingly.

Per Massey, the initial version of the new tracing tool — feted at 6:30 p.m. tonight at an invitation-only soiree (free cocktails and hors d’oeuvres) at the Ronald Reagan Building at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — is configured to work on iOS 7-enabled iPhones. He said the company hopes to launch an Android version in early 2014.

Currently, users are able to select overall ratings for individuals on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. But those scores can fluctuate based on different impressions, new legislative actions or plain old buyer’s remorse.

“Individuals have the ability to change that at any time. So think it more as a flag,” he suggested.

That’s why his programmers are hard at work on an iPad version designed specifically to provide elected officials with real time data (an “analytics dashboard,” Massey called it) to chew on. Once released, most likely in early 2014, registered lawmakers will be able to view how their ratings have risen or fallen over time — a snapshot of reactions to their every political move.

“We’re more like social media with a purpose,” Massey said. Full story

Jerry Moran Stays True to Hometown ‘Cue

An innocent plug for Global Entrepreneurship Week by Sen. Jerry Moran made us a do a double take when we noticed the not-so-local business he was flogging:

Could it be that the Kansas Republican, by hailing the original Arthur Bryant’s, was officially switching teams and siding with Missourians in the longstanding regional battle for total barbecue dominance?

Fat chance.

For those unfamiliar with the duality of Kansas City barbecue, there are world famous establishments native to each metropolis — one in Kansas, one in Missouri — as well as restaurants with locations in both states.

While staff confirmed that Moran has sampled Arthur Bryant’s fabled brand of barbecue before, the lawmaker clarified his go-to pits for HOH.

“When in Washington, DC, I like Old Glory and Hill Country,” Moran shared in an email. “But they’re just not the same as Gates, Oklahoma Joe’s, Jack Stack, Smokehouse and others back home.

“The history, personality, sauce and world-class Kansas beef make Kansas City barbecue tough to beat,” the avowed burnt ends fan (us too!) asserted.

Much like that foul-mouthed radio pitchwoman who is habitually dousing everything with Frank’s Red Hot sauce, Moran, too, has a simple solution for dealing with flavorless fare he encounters in his epicurean travels.

“My favorite sauce is KC Masterpiece, which I often add to non-barbecue dishes too,” he said.

HOH Alumna Recalls the One That Got Away

Former Heard on the Hill scribe Emily Heil is gearing up to grab the gossip reins as co-author of the Washington Post’s Reliable Source column in just a few weeks.

But at a dinner Monday in her honor, she shared the tale of one particularly frustrating HOH item she was never able to successfully pin down. Full story

By Warren Rojas Posted at 2:44 p.m.
DC, media

November 18, 2013

GOP Aide Recruits Tour Companions for Proposal

Senate Republican Policy Committee counsel Michael Stransky not only fulfilled his sweetheart’s wish of finally taking in the breathtaking view from the top of the Capitol Dome, he also convinced visiting tourists to pose as paparazzi during the surprise proposal he sprung on his now-fianceé, Jennifer Pollom.

(Courtesy HOH tipster)

(Courtesy HOH tipster)

“We had been talking a little bit about it. But I certainly didn’t see the Capitol Dome coming,” Pollom told HOH about the extra-special spot Stransky selected to pop the question on Nov. 15. Full story

What We Learned From Manchin’s AMA

Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., opened up last week, answering 10 questions submitted by Redditors in a video posted by The Atlantic.

In a visual version of Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” posts, Manchin spoke widely on his political beliefs. In fewer than 20 minutes, Manchin said he believes in traditional marriage, that redistricting can and should be done by objective computer models and that identification should be required when voting in federal elections.

“I just don’t have a problem showing an ID,” he said. “I show an ID everywhere I go.” Full story

Take Five: Rep. Bill Flores

It’s time again for Take Five, when HOH talks with a member of Congress about topics relatively unrelated to his or her legislative work.

This week, Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, discusses Texas A&M football, life on the ranch and snow skiing.

Q. As a Texas A&M alumnus, how do you feel about Johnny Manziel’s behavior on and off the football field?

A. His behavior on the field is exceptional. He still has a little maturing to go through off the field. Hopefully that’ll come with age. We all go through that same struggle when we’re younger.

Q. What was life like growing up on the ranch?

A. The work was hard, the hours were long, and since I was working for family, there was no pay involved. But I have to say, the work was very fulfilling. For instance, if I built a mile of fence, the feeling of satisfaction I got when I looked back and looked at that mile of fence … that made me feel good.

Q. How long has your family been in Texas? How do you define a Texan?

A. My family came from Spain and settled in the area near Nacogdoches, Texas, in 1725. So I’m a ninth-generation Texan. But I don’t know if you’d call us Texans because it predates Texas; it predates the United States. I’ll have to go back and come up with a better definition.

Q. What are some of your hobbies?

A. Well, my two primary hobbies are snow skiing and flying. I learned how to ski when I was in high school, when I was 18. And I just love that particular sport. My other hobby of flying is something I’m passionate about as well. I’m a private pilot … I have about 2,500 hours of pilot and command time.

Q. Where do you do your snow skiing?

A. The primary place I go is Telluride, Colo. There’s just no more beautiful place in the world to ski — well, I don’t think there’s any more beautiful place in the world to do anything.

Montana Campaign Ad Prompts Political Guessing Game

A recent job posting seeking a highly motivated campaign manager got tongues wagging about just who the mystery employer might be. When you start off a post with “Duties include everything,” it’s the kind of honesty normally not seen in job listings.

The HOH tipster who stumbled across the matter-of-fact solicitation — “If you don’t already know what it takes to run a multi million dollar statewide campaign, you’re not qualified,” is far and away our favorite caveat — just assumed that the bid for a seasoned congressional strategist was coming from Senate hopeful John Bohlinger. The former lieutenant governor is the latest Democrat to toss his hat into the ring to succeed retiring Montana Democrat Max Baucus.

Turns out, the opening in question is to help usher forth Dirk Adams’ bid.

“People have realized it’s going to be a contested primary,” political fundraiser Jerald Lentini told HOH about the brewing race.

Lentini stressed that Adams, who announced his candidacy earlier this year, is determined to represent the same people he’s grown to know and love during the nearly three decades he’s spent as a cattle rancher. “We’re going to be putting on a first-class race … because that’s exactly what the people of Montana deserve,” Lentini asserted.

He noted that Adams was making the rounds in Washington, D.C., this week and is looking forward to formally announcing his full team (he’s still hunting for a finance director, as well) in early December.

Meanwhile, Montana Republican Rep. Steve Daines has officially announced his desire to make the leap from the House to the Senate.

By Warren Rojas Posted at 3:01 p.m.
Nationwide, Reps, Sens

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