Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 16, 2014

April 9, 2014

Overheard: Eric Holder Goes Veggie on Louie Gohmert

“Good luck with your asparagus.”

— Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., directing his ire on Tuesday at Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas. Last year, in another testy exchange between the two, Gohmert said, “The attorney general will not cast aspersions on my asparagus.”

April 8, 2014

Hill Staffers Swarm Taco Bell Tray, Terrify Server

Ustedes quieren Taco Bell!

Pity the poor Taco Bell employee who was tasked with delivering a tray of tacos to a gaggle of Hill staffers at a Tuesday reception in the Rayburn House Office Building.

“This reception shows no shame as staff fills up boxes and garbage bags of burritos,” our daring congressional staffer/tipster tell us. See for yourself:

Web Mogul Has Designs on New Political Party

Entrepreneur Mike Mann has successfully grown various e-businesses and fostered thriving charity groups. He now plans to apply the lessons learned from each toward developing a viable alternative at the ballot box, tentatively dubbed the Better Government Party.

Mann’s vision for this prospective political uprising spans nearly four dozen bullet points, though he insists the main mission is fairly simple: upending our disingenuous two-party system.

“Anybody who pays attention can see that Democrats and Republicans … are exactly the same. They all have a history of lies, graft and corruption,” Mann said. “But there’s nobody else to vote for.”

Mann would like to fill that void with like-minded individuals amenable to abandoning the status quo and starting anew. He declined to identify those who he claims have already expressed interest in climbing — a roster Mann hinted will, when all is said and done, include socially conscious celebrities, Internet execs, disillusioned politicos and “rock stars” — but stressed that the recruiting process is well under way.

“The ones most likely to convert are those without strong party affinity, … mostly fresh minds applied to the problem over a long period, with specific goals,” he said of the “Founding Fathers” he’d like to have help shape the official party platform. In an ideal world, Mann would love to see a “constitutional convention” take place here in D.C. later this fall. Full story

A Crash Course in Congressional Hanky-Panky

An offbeat observation by someone who sounded none-too-surprised to learn that Louisiana Republican Rep. Vance McAllister had been busted getting busy with a congressional aide got us thinking about whom, exactly, Capitol Hill playboys spend their time seducing.

“It’s always the schedulers,” an HOH reader opined online after perusing the tawdry tale of McAllister’s videotaped make-out session with district aide — and Facebook friend (social media has doomed us all) — Melissa Hixon Peacock.

A Crash Course in Congressional Hanky Panky

(Screenshot)

The Ouachita Citizen exposed the interoffice dalliance (both McAllister and Peacock are married to other people) with the help of a grainy surveillance video purportedly leaked to the local paper by another McAllister aide.

While Peacock clearly fit our conspiracy theorists’ bill in this particular case, HOH decided to examine the past 20 years of congressional sexcapades to discern whether libidinous lawmakers do, in fact, have a clear cut “type.”

Ex-Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif.

A Crash Course in Congressional Hanky Panky

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Object of his affection: the late Chandra Levy, his intern. Full story

April 7, 2014

Guerilla Artist Skewers Dems to Spark Breitbart California Launch

Conservative artist/provocateur Sabo is no stranger to mixing members of Congress and California, as can be seen from his mock-up of a recent Ted Cruz, R-Texas, event in Beverly Hills.

Guerilla Artist Skewers Dems to Spark Breitbart California Launch

(Screenshot)

But now that the Breitbart News Network has expanded to the Golden State, Sabo is helping mark the bi-coastal migration with a fresh batch of eyebrow-raising art.

The politically charged images, including one of a provocatively dressed and posed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., served as the welcome mat for the fledgling site, an act of aggression fitting with the anonymous artist’s MO.

“My aim as an artist is to be as dirty, ground level, and mean as any Liberal artist out there, more so if I can,” Sabo, who describes himself as a Republican and ex-Marine, declares on his personal website. He has previously taken shots at President Barack Obama and former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, but elected to widen his scope this time around to better suit the media rollout.

Sabo assured HOH, however, that he is not on the Breitbart payroll.

“Just consider me a fan of Andrew, a kindred spirit with a common mission,” he suggested via email. “My contribution to said ‘mission’ is to help Conservatives find their creative voice. I admit my approach is rather hard edge. … That’s just the way I like it.”

He declined to specify how many posters had been papered across Los Angeles and indicated that it’s still too early too tell which anti-Democrat depiction will cause the biggest commotion.

“The posters just hit the street so, I can not comment on which has pissed ‘Progressives’ off more. I hope they all equally tie their panties in knots,” Sabo said.

Democrats here in Washington, D.C., had no such problem picking their least favorite contribution to the arts — the rather unflattering image of Pelosi.

“To say the least, the Breitbart News ad is foul, offensive, and disrespectful to all women. It is a disgusting new low and would be reprehensible against any woman — regardless of party,” Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., stated in a release. “It’s no wonder the Republicans are having problems appealing to women. If GOP leaders are serious about their rebrand, then both their elected and Party leadership should condemn this outrageous behavior, call on Breitbart News to immediately remove the ad, and not continue to use this website as a forum for their views.”

Per Sabo, Pelosi was on his hit list because she is “a typical gun grabbing liberal who fights to insure only the ‘authorities’ can possess firearms that way they, the political class, can run over us anytime they want without fear of retribution from the peasants.”

The others drawing fire — “They all suck, some slightly more than the other but not by much,” Sabo groused — this time around include:

California Gov. Jerry Brown

Guerilla Artist Skewers Dems to Spark Breitbart California Launch

(Screenshot)

“Jerry Brown is back-wash. Californians were dumb enough to have brought back [him] from the dead; talk about a zombie invasion,” Sabo said of the boomerang pol.

 

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg

Guerilla Artist Skewers Dems to Spark Breitbart California Launch

(Screenshot)

“Zuckerberg is a tech-klepto who’s nose is waaaaay too far up everyone’s business,” Sabo said.

 

CNN personality Piers Morgan

Guerilla Artist Skewers Dems to Spark Breitbart California Launch

(Screenshot)

“Piers Morgan needs to go back home,” Sabo counseled.

Breitbart readers were, by and large, rather pleased to see their common enemies held up to ridicule and scorn:

Guerilla Artist Skewers Dems to Spark Breitbart California Launch

(Screenshot)

 

Guerilla Artist Skewers Dems to Spark Breitbart California Launch

(Screenshot)

One rabble-rouser even urged Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to take notes, but doubted the higher ups would hear her plaintive cries.

Guerilla Artist Skewers Dems to Spark Breitbart California Launch

(Screenshot)

Meanwhile, a left-leaning observer vowed to counter the visual offensive by coining a new definition for “Breitbart” a la the homoerotic connotation sex columnist Dan Savage affixed to former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., years ago.

Guerilla Artist Skewers Dems to Spark Breitbart California Launch

(Screenshot)

And while he may be persona non grata over in the House, Sabo appears to be in good with at least one member in the other chamber, the aforementioned Mr. Cruz.

Sabo reimagined the tea party favorite as an inked-up outlaw a few weeks back, and said the Texas Republican responded in kind. “I’m happy to report Senator Ted Cruz has a pair [of posters] and has yet to throw me under the bus,” Sabo said of his congressional fan base.

Cruz made light of the gritty depiction on Twitter, offering one small correction to the rather outlandish homage:

 

 

Take Five: Rep. Alan Lowenthal

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. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., talks about participating in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements as well as how playing racquetball helped him get things done in the California Legislature.

Q. Before you became a legislator, you taught community psychology at California State University, Long Beach. Why did you decide to study and ultimately teach this subject?

A. I went to graduate school during the civil rights movement and also the war in Vietnam. I was at Ohio State University working on my Ph.D., and I was in the clinical psychology program. I became more and more convinced, as did a lot of other psychologists, young folks who were in graduate school like myself, that psychology was not relevant. Why didn’t we understand what was happening among the reaction against the Vietnam War? Why didn’t we understand more about what was going on in our communities with the rise of issues, women’s issues, African-American issues, and others?

So there was a new group of psychologists in graduate programs and students who really did not want to study how you treat people for problems, but how do you prevent them? And so it broadened psychology. But it really enabled me to incorporate my academic beliefs in the study of behavior as well as my desire to be relevant in my community, to promote well-being in my community, and to understand the various diversities and different groups in my community.

Q. What was it like participating in the anti-Vietnam War movement and civil rights protests while you were at Ohio State?

A. It was a time when we believed everything was possible. I think we’ve kind of lost that in this country. And maybe we shouldn’t have had it — maybe it was a fantasy. But we really believed and there really was a sense that we were making great changes in the nation. We were finally beginning to acknowledge a great oppression that had taken place to people of color, to women, to people of different sexual orientation.

Q: You’re a baseball fan — who is your favorite player?

A. Well, I love the Los Angeles Dodgers. I love them all. If I had to pick one person — I grew up worshipping Sandy Koufax. So I have a particular fondness for pitchers.  I love Clayton Kershaw. He reminds me of Koufax, he’s dominating.

But I grew up — I lived and died as a kid with Jackie Robinson. Jackie Robinson had probably more influence on who I was, who I became, than any other person.

Q. Why did you start playing racquetball?

A. When I was at Cal State Long Beach, I was in a regular Friday morning and weekend tennis game. And after a while I realized I didn’t have that much time. So I learned that I could play racquetball, which used some of the same skills, at 6:30 or 7 in the morning, be finished by 8 or 8:30, and I’d still have the whole day.

I got a lot of legislation out of the state Legislature out of playing racquetball. We got a courthouse in Long Beach, much of it. And we also got the independent redistricting commission out of the California state Senate because I played with the leader of the Republican Party, Dick Ackerman, and Ackerman became my buddy. I played with Ackerman for years and years.

Q. What’s a misconception about life in California?

A. You know, the misconception that I think many people have is that somehow California is dysfunctional. It doesn’t work, it’s kind of tilted, and all the nuts in the world are in California. And I find it just the opposite. I find California is very progressive, very thoughtful, future-oriented, has real concern about not only its children but its children’s children, what the future’s going to be like. California is an attitude, and it’s an attitude that really is all-encompassing, appreciates diversity, looks at everybody as a strength.

By Bridget Bowman Posted at 2:54 p.m.
Reps, TakeFive

Washington State Society Hosts Oso Relief Effort

Evergreen Staters stuck here in the District want to help those back home still dealing with the aftermath of a devastating mudslide by raising a few glasses — and hopefully some big bucks — Tuesday night.

Washington State Society Hosts Oso Relief Effort

(Courtesy Washington State Society)

The Oso Mudslide Relief reception is scheduled to take place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the State Room at 201 Bar (201 Massachusetts Ave. NE). There is a suggested donation of $20.

The natural disaster struck the Oso community on March 22; the administration officially took action on April 2.

Funds collected at 201 Bar are expected to benefit the United Way of Snohomish County. Event organizers are also planning a raffle featuring prizes such as an Xbox One and gift certificates to local restaurants.

Congressional aides told HOH that Washington Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene are planning to attend the fundraiser. The office of Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., said the slightly hobbled lawmaker (currently on crutches) is aware of the event, but could not guarantee his participation.

April 6, 2014

Enter the Political Stock Exchange | Capitol Quip

Enter the Political Stock Exchange | Capitol Quip

The Supreme Court ruling on McCutcheon vs. FEC holds serious ramifications for congressional campaign committees, super PACs, and special interests, with some arguing that liberty, now more than ever, can and will be bought by the highest bidder(s). That brings us to this week’s Capitol Quip.

Send us a caption for this week’s contest by leaving it in the comments section. Editors will pick five finalists on Wednesday, and everyone can vote for the winner through Thursday.

To see our previous winners, check us out on Pinterest.

Bruce Braley, in Need of a Good Lawyer? | Capitol Quip

Bruce Braley, in Need of a Good Lawyer? | Capitol Quip

Thanks to the many readers who contributed captions for last week’s Capitol Quip contest. Here’s the winning entry, as voted by readers of Heard on the Hill.

The winner will receive a signed color print suitable for framing from Roll Call cartoonist R.J. Matson. Check out our past winners on Pinterest.

April 4, 2014

Solons See No Slam Dunks in Alabama BBQ Bracket

Alabama’s tourism authorities have flipped March Madness into a food fight, pitting many of the Yellowhammer State’s revered barbecue purveyors against one another in an online popularity contest.

Based on the most recent balloting, one of the following contenders will walk away with the title once voting closes April 7: Jim ‘N Nick’s in Birmingham (chicken, pork), Smokin’ on the Boulevard in Florence (ribs) and Bob Sykes Bar-B-Q in Bessemer (sauce).

Trouble is, some of the folks here on Capitol Hill would beg to differ with the vox populi. Full story

FLOTUS Injects New Life Into Kitchen Garden Project

FLOTUS Injects New Life Into Kitchen Garden Project

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

No longer satisfied with fostering better eating habits amongst humans, First Lady Michelle Obama is now making a bid to nurture Mother Nature by weaving pollinator-friendly flowering plants into the agricultural mix that makes up the White House kitchen garden.

FLOTUS broke ground on the project in 2009 and has only seen interest in the ultimate testament to homegrown food multiply with each successive planting.

The carefully tended garden routinely doubles as an instructional tool for Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, a pet project designed to spur healthier eating and increased physical activity among America’s youth.

Sam Kass, executive director of “Let’s Move!” and senior advisor on nutrition policy, listed the pollinator plants, a bed of Lincoln oats and a recently transplanted pawpaw tree as the latest additions to the garden party. Full story

By Warren Rojas Posted at 3:50 p.m.
FLOTUS, Food, Kiddies

A Kansas Primary Debate in Alexandria?

A Kansas Primary Debate in Alexandria?

(CQ Roll Call File Photo Composite)

Alexandria, Va., and Alexandria, Kan., are nothing alike.

One is a suburb of the national’s capital. The other is just a few miles from Leavenworth. But a tea party group based in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., wants to host a Kansas Senate primary debate, and the long-shot challenger has already accepted the invitation.

A group known as the Northern Virginia Tea Party is offering to host a debate between veteran Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and challenger Milton Wolf. Wolf may be best known to HOH readers as a distant relative of President Barack Obama.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 3:31 p.m.
DC, Nationwide

House Agriculture Discloses the Real News | Madisonville

House Agriculture Discloses the Real News | Madisonville

Not much can beat the House Agriculture Committee for showing what a rich and diverse country we live in. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s appearance Thursday for a “Review the State of the Rural Economy” had moments that felt like the scene in “Men in Black” where Tommy Lee Jones turns to the National Enquirer to get reliable news.

The mainstream media are missing some big stories.

Like “the black vultures problem that is plaguing the Southeast,” says Tennessee Republican Scott DesJarlais. The vultures are attacking livestock, often going for the eyes — but not always. “They also attack the backside of animals,” DesJarlais says. That detail prompts a quick mental check about April Fools’ Day. There’s no comfort in confirming that it was two days earlier.

Farmers are setting off fireworks and firing their guns into the air because they can’t kill the vultures without a permit. Unruffled (heh heh), the vultures keep coming back. Full story

Ex-Hill Aide Taps Different Constituencies for PR

Gary Meltz, a one-time aide to Rep. Eliot L. Engel, D-N.Y., who has since carved out a niche for himself in the crisis management game, is inviting friends and colleagues to come celebrate the birth of Meltz Communications.

The fledgling communications firm officially threw open its doors in late January. But Meltz suggested that the myriad demands of actually setting up shop have made it nearly impossible to stop and enjoy a single minute of the momentous life change.

Ex Hill Aide Taps Different Constituencies for PR

(Courtesy Meltz Communications)

He hopes to rectify all that by indulging friends with a few drinks, some gourmet treats and signature matchbooks (‘natch) at an invite-only reception scheduled to take place April 8 from 6-8 p.m. at the Science Club (1136 19th St. NW). Full story

Coats Wanders Into Wrong Committee Hearing (Video)

Have you ever ducked into a meeting you weren’t supposed to, or stepped into the wrong showing at a movie theater?  Sure you have.  But lucky for you, the mishap wasn’t captured on camera.

We can’t say the same for Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., who wandered into a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing Wednesday and began asking the Treasury Department’s witness a series of questions before a staffer informed him he was in the wrong place.

“I just got a note saying I’m at the wrong hearing,” the Indiana Republican said. “I’ve got the right room number, but the wrong hearing. Well this is the first time this has ever happened to me.”

Coats, who responded to his recent ban from Russia with a top 10 list of things he would miss, quickly left the hearing after realizing his mistake.

“I’ll go try to find out where I’m supposed to be.”

Watch the full exchange below:

HOH gives props to Coats and his staff for treating the situation with the appropriate levity.

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