Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 22, 2014

June 26, 2013

The Squeaky Wheel Gets the … Insult? | Overheard

Man 1: “God, this thing sounds like crap.”
Man 2: “Yeah, I know. Taxpayers’ money.”

A pair of pseudo-engineers (photographing track features, debating Capitol Police procedures) chuckling about the state of the Senate subway system.

June 25, 2013

Kasie Hunt Advances in Fantasy Softball, Smack Talk Goes Into Overdrive

In a little more than 24 hours, female members of Congress and the press corps will suit up for The Game.

The teams face off Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. in a charity fundraiser to support young women facing breast cancer. Two and a half months of practice in, the fundraising expectations for the Young Survival Coalition are nearing $125,000 and the trash talk is utterly out of control.

Think we’re taking this game too seriously? Our readers are just as into it — and they can channel that energy in Roll Call’s Fantasy Softball game.

“How can I rig fantasy softball? Can I slip a hard ball to the pitcher when one of my players is up? Move the foul poles? Are you testing for HGH?” Democratic operative Andy Barr jokingly emailed to Heard on the Hill. “We can split the gift card.”

Here were the standings as of 2:30 p.m. Tuesday:

Full story

An Earful: HOH’s NSA Mix Tape

We Act Radio wants to flood D.C.’s streets with spinning spokes and booming speeches this Independence Day via a multi-ward, anti-domestic spying protest dubbed the “NSA Mixtape Bike Ride.”

The event, which is scheduled to kick off at 5 p.m. July 4 at WAR HQ (1918 Martin Luther King Ave. SE), is being billed as “part flash mob, part street theatre, and part march … in opposition to ‘Big Brother’” by organizers on social media.

Planners have also promised to feed the demonstrators a steady diet of “relevant songs and speeches against surveillance” during the evolving ride; per online bantering, the length of the ride remains in flux (2-3 hours appears on the table), as does the ultimate destination (“possibly ending on the Mall to provide context to the fireworks and/or U street for beer”).

Ride wrangler Kymone Freeman did not respond to queries about what might pop up on the promised mix tape, so we here at HOH compiled what we believe to be an apropos playlist:

“Somebody’s Watching Me” — Rockwell

The new normal. Full story

Nebraska Zoo Likens Frisky Red Panda Pop to Strom Thurmond

Looks like Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., has let the cat red panda out of the bag:

Nebraska Zoo Likens Frisky Red Panda Pop to Strom Thurmond

(Courtesy Jeff Fortenberry)

While weighing in on the origins of Rusty, the 1-year-old red panda who took to the streets of D.C. Monday for an impromptu look-see, Fortenberry inadvertently leaked a Nebraska habitat’s nickname — “Strom Thurmond” — for the randy elder mammal from which he sprung.

John Chapo, Lincoln Children’s Zoo president and CEO, told HOH he bestowed the moniker on the furry pawed-paterfamilias, whose real name is “Disney,” for obvious reasons.

“According to the national Red Panda Species Survival Plan chair, Disney was and still is the oldest red panda male in captivity to successful sire healthy offspring at the age of 15. Before that, the oldest was 12,” Chapo explained. Full story

‘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.

Senatorial Actor No Virgin to Political Roles


Red (Panda) Dawn?

Brad Dayspring was momentarily baffled Tuesday morning when he peeked outside his Second Street Northeast office window and saw what appeared to be a white canopy lazily descending into D.C.:

Red (Panda) Dawn?

(Courtesy Brad Dayspring)

The National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman, who must have secretly welcomed the temporary reprieve from having to stay glued to cable news reports about today’s special election in Massachusetts, immediately tweeted out his suspicions about a rogue parachutist — to which his followers almost unanimously responded with, “Red Dawn!”

We choose to believe it’s merely red panda Rusty‘s latest attempt to see more of his newly adopted home.

June 24, 2013

Boldin Warns Congress, POTUS About Abuses in Africa

Super Bowl XLVII winning Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin, now with the San Francisco 49ers, is spending part of the off-season pressing politicians about human rights abuses in Africa, a message he shared with both sides of the Capitol during a lobbying blitz Monday.

Boldin Warns Congress, POTUS About Abuses in Africa

(Audra Melton/Oxfam America)

Boldin, who toured remote parts of Senegal earlier this spring and visited Ethiopia in 2012, came to Capitol Hill with Oxfam America in anticipation of President Barack Obama’s good-will mission to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania this week.

“You have these people who literally live on top of gold mines … and they see no benefits from it,” Boldin said about the destitute African farmers he came in contact with who’ve been displaced by natural-resource-reaping multinationals.

Boldin spent the day sharing what he had experienced with the administration, a senior aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Foreign Affairs Africa Subcommittee Chairman Christopher H. Smith, R-N.J., House Appropriations Committee staff, and Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

Full story

Gillibrand and Wasserman Schultz Lead Fantasy Softball

In case you live on another planet, the annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game is only two short days away and the tech geniuses at CQ Roll Call have devised a Fantasy Softball version of the game so that any league aficionado can get in on the action.

The trash talk between the press and the Congress has hit a fevered clip in the past few days, as each side prepares to face off in the annual breast cancer charity fundraiser.

Disclosure: The author of this post is one of the players featured in Fantasy Softball and a co-captain of the press team.

Here are the player standings as of Monday afternoon:

1. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

2. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.

3. Abby Livingston, Roll Call

4. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

5. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.

6. Kasie Hunt, NBC News

7. Amy Walter, Cook Political Report

8. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

9. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.

10. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii

In other softball news, Heitkamp hit up the batting cages (again) over the weekend. And Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., took part in the latest fad in Congress, working out with local softball and baseball teams. Her kitchen cabinet? The Los Angeles Dodgers’ AAA affiliate Albuquerque Isotopes.

Several weeks ago Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, practiced with Ohio State’s softball team, and the weekend before last, Wasserman Schultz picked up some tips from Florida International University’s Panthers.

As for the press team, the Bad News Babes held its annual scrimmage on Sunday evening, with players looking fierce in new uniforms.

Gillibrand and Wasserman Schultz Lead Fantasy Softball

(Courtesy Shawna Thomas/NBC News)

And CNN’s Dana Bash will join Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., in the most passive-aggressive play-by-play you will ever hear.

Still need to buy tickets? Word on the street is that they are flying. Get them here.

Eye on Iowans

We’re not much for conspiracy theories here at HOH.

Eye on Iowans

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

But a chance encounter on the red line with this gentleman, who bears a striking resemblance to a usually sweater-vested Hawkeye state senator (check out the T-shirt!), has persuaded us to perhaps pay a little closer attention to the anti-pod-people lobby …

New Show Mines Congress for Comedy Gold

Paging House Majority Whip Francis Underwood: There’s a new unruly player in town.

Ex-congressional aides Rob Raffety and Andrew Heaton are skewering their former employer in a new Web show dubbed “Cap South,” a comedy project chronicling the misadventures of a fictional female congresswoman and her bumbling staff.

Creator/director Raffety plans to unveil the homegrown series — set to debut on YouTube this July — a few episodes at a time (two or three per week, he said). He’ll also be fleshing out the faux workplace, which seems to echo the irreverent tone struck by HBO’s breakout hit “Veep” by mixing in “bonus features” including bogus “attack ads,” constituent phone call segments and wacky non sequiturs.

For Raffety, who spent a year in the trenches with Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., back in 2001, the show is all about playing up the organized chaos that is Congress.

“I try to explore some of the common challenges and obstacles facing the average staffer day-in and day-out and offer a comedic perspective on that very unique work environment,” he said of the “highly exaggerated version of reality” presented.

Full story

June 23, 2013

Syria-Infested Waters | Capitol Quip

Syria Infested Waters | Capitol Quip

The civil war in Syria continues to draw the international community into the fray, and it’s hard to predict what happens next. What readers do have control over, though, is what caption will go along with this week’s Capitol Quip.

Leave us your caption in the comments section below. Editors will pick five finalists on Wednesday, and then everyone can vote for the winner until Thursday afternoon. The winner gets a signed print from illustrator R.J. Matson.

By Jason Dick Posted at 7:30 p.m.
Capitol Quip

Border Security Starts at Home | Capitol Quip

Border Security Starts at Home | 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.

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!

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.

Fictional Franchise: The ‘Mad Men’ Edition

For the latest edition of our series that examines fictional characters and the real people who represent them in Congress, we explore “Mad Men.”

The rules go like this: We decide where fictional characters live and then look up who represents them in the House. (Learn more here.)

The “Mad Man” edition will include the most up-to-date addresses in the series. While the “Mad Men” universe is currently in 1968, we are using current members and district lines because we get to make up the rules. And this was written before the season finale, so a character’s congressional representation is not subject to death or getting kicked out of one’s home.

Yes, we know, in the words of Don Draper, this edition of Fictional Franchise is a bit “complicated.”

Don and Megan Draper (Jon Hamm and Jessica Paré) 
Upper East Side, New York City
Democratic Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney

There have been numerous references over the past two seasons to the Drapers’ Park Avenue address, but one of the most recent was Sally’s call to the police during “Grandma” Ida’s visit. Maloney’s silk-stocking section of Manhattan is rife with other characters from Fictional Franchises past, including Holden Caulfield and Eloise.

Thanks to his impulsive personal life, Don has lived in several House districts over the course of the series. He began “Mad Men” as a constituent of Rep. Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., when he lived with his first wife, Betty, and their children in Ossining. After Betty kicked him out, he moved to Greenwich Village and into Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler’s 10th District.

Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) 
Upper West Side, New York City
Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler

Peggy seriously considered moving to the East Side (helllooo Maloney!) but her boyfriend talked her into buying on the Upper West Side. Abe dumped her after she accidentally stabbed him but the thrill was already gone — with both the couple and the neighborhood.

It’s been an Exodus-ian existence. Rodents, muggers and vandals all plagued Peggy and Abe. We do not anticipate Peggy to stick around for long.

She was a Brooklyn girl before she became an Uptown Girl. In the first season, she states that she is from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. The New York Times recently profiled that nabe, which is part of GOP Rep. Michael G. Grimm’s home turf.

Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks)
Greenwich Village, New York City
Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler

As of Season 2, Joan’s driver’s license said she lives on the northern edge of Greenwich Village.

In fact, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation has a whole layout of “Mad Men” scenes and settings in the Village.

Besides Peggy and Joan, there are a number of other Fictional Franchise characters who live in Nadler’s West Side Manhattan district. They include: Peter Warren Hatcher from “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” and the psycho from “Fatal Attraction.”

Betty and Henry Francis (January Jones and Christopher Stanley) 
Rye, N.Y.
Democratic Rep. Eliot L. Engel

The only person more politically ambitious than Henry is Betty. Engel ought to watch his back.

Pete and Trudy Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser and Alison Brie) 
Cos Cob, Conn.
Democratic Rep. Jim Himes

Yes, Pete is back in the city. But it is our determination that, amid all of his chaos, he has not switched his voter registration. Plus, of late, he has only referred to his marital situation as “separated.”

Their less-than-happy home is in “the country,” out in Connecticut’s 4th District, a fact that that excited the locals.

Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka)
Farmington, Conn.
Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty

Sally is so done with both Betty and Don. So, as of this writing, she was all systems go to attend the exclusive Miss Porter‘s boarding school.

Still, there is no need to campaign to Sally; she’s not of age to vote yet.

Dawn Chambers (Teyonah Parris)
Harlem, New York City
Democratic Rep. Charles B. Rangel

We are still learning about Dawn, but she is one of our favorite new characters this year. And she has the same name as her male boss.

We determined her residence courtesy of the folks at WNYC, who produced a map that is the greatest thing ever for any fan of Fictional Franchise and “Mad Men.”

Anna Draper (Melinda Page Hamilton)
San Pedro, Calif.
Democratic Rep. Janice Hahn

Before Anna, the wife of the real Don Draper, died of cancer, she formed an unlikely friendship with her husband’s impostor. But (the fake) Don made regular trips out to her Los Angeles-area home in Hahn’s 44th District.

Our friends at Curbed LA helped us here.

Previous Installments: 

The Gangstas of Governing

We’ve had enough of the slow trickle of closet rap fans serving in Congress. It’s time our elected B-Boys band together.

Presenting our nominees for the inaugural class of the Congressional Rap Caucus (it could happen), paired with their hip-hop counterparts:

Rep. André Carson, D-Ind. – MC Melle Mel

Per Carson, the flamboyant founding member of the Furious Five inspired the one-time battle emcee-cum-lawmaker to master the art of spittin’ lyrics.

Full story

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