Sen. Dole’s office a mecca of marriage

Romance is in the air in the office of Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.). Seven aides in the senator’s office are engaged to be married.

The news comes to ITK from Jimmy Broughton, formerly an aide to Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). Dole assumed Helms’s seat when he retired.

“We in the Helms office had a few from time to time — and expectant mothers as well — and Sen. Helms ‘blamed’ it on the ‘expensive’ bottled water we had to purchase when the Senate cut off the water fountains years ago,” said Broughton, now senior government relations adviser at Womble, Carlyle Sandridge & Rice.



Scooter-riding Carper helps McCaskill on crutches   

Libby may be going to jail, but there’s a new Scooter in town and his name is Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who’s something of a modern-day superhero.

It’s not the blind leading the blind, but rather the gimpy leading the gimpy.

Some may have noticed that Carper has, until recently, worn a boot to protect a bone he broke in his foot while running a marathon in March. He now has a new device.

Last Thursday, Carper got off the elevator on the Capitol’s jam-packed second floor, where senators and reporters swarmed during a vote. The door slid open, and out he wheeled on his new scooter, known as a Roll-about. With much consideration and tenderness, he turned back and guided Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) with his hand on her back as she limped out on crutches.

McCaskill remarked, “This is some photo op.”

The day before, Carper was seen zooming through Union Station, speeding to catch a train with his hair flying back in the wind.

As for McCaskill, she had knee-replacement surgery over the Easter recess, but was back in Washington last week without having to miss any votes. “Physical therapy is occupying some of her time right now,” explained spokeswoman Maria Speiser.

McCaskill has had knee pain for several years but held off on surgery because of her last two campaigns. “Bad knees run in her family,” Speiser said. “Her mom had two knee replacements and her sister has had one too. It seems to be something McCaskill women frequently deal with.”

Navigating the Senate on crutches hasn’t been easy. McCaskill’s staff has been trying to minimize how much she has to walk until she’s off the crutches.

Life hasn’t been a cakewalk for Carper either, but the Roll-about is helping him.

“It’s a great device,” said Trevor Kincaid, Carper’s spokesman. “Not only does it provide more mobility, but decreases time to heal.”

Kincaid explained that the senator accidentally discovered the Delaware-made Roll-about months ago, before he even needed it, and took a company tour. “Just kind of serendipitous,” Kincaid said.

Expect to see Carper on the contraption for six to eight weeks.



Stargazing: Gifford and Ladd in the Capitol today

Will Gifford mention Cody and Cassidy?


The last time Kathie Lee Gifford, former host of “Regis and Kathie Lee,” was on Capitol Hill, the year was 1996 and it wasn’t such a pleasant experience. At the time, Gifford was being accused of supporting sweatshops. Oh, but that’s so yesterday.

Today she’s here for the pleasant but serious matter of attending a luncheon in the Senate Russell Caucus Room on behalf of Childhelp National Day of Hope. Childhelp is a non-profit dedicated to stopping child abuse.

“It’s our national shame,” she says. “It’s too difficult to look at, so we look away. It’s not like Anna Nicole, which in a sick sort of way, we are fascinated about.”

Gifford will be joined by other famous faces: Cheryl Ladd, formerly of “Charlie’s Angels,” and singer Ralna English, who has appeared on “The Lawrence Welk Show.” The Day of Hope award goes to Marie Gray of St. John’s Knits, a designer that caters to a whole host of female lawmakers and Washington spouses, including Cindy McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Gifford caught up with ITK on Monday by phone. A couple things right off the bat: She still talks about Cody and Cassidy — Cody is 17 and 6-foot-3; Cassidy is 14. “She’s my little angel baby,” Gifford says of her daughter.

On another matter, she does not despise Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa. She sees Philbin about once a month in Greenwich, Conn., where they both live. She recently brought him a large basket with all his favorite foods.

On Ripa, she says, “She’s adorable.”

Despite the praises sung for them, Gifford has not watched the show since the day she left. “Why would I watch?” she asks. “I left because I wanted to fill up my life with a brand new challenge.”

Gifford, a self-proclaimed independent who is a close personal friend of Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and wife, Annette, declared: “I think there are idiots are both sides.”

Beginning next week, Gifford’s play, “Saving Aimee,” performs at the Signature Theater in Arlington. The play runs through May 13.



Democratic press secretary training turns up warnings

In the first briefing of its kind in two and a half years, the Democrats held a press briefing for all Democratic press secretaries last week. The event is designed to help with new and veteran spokesmen.

Among the speakers was Joe Lockhart, former spokesman for President Bill Clinton, who warned, “Don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t become part of the story.”

Lockhart learned these rules the hard way. Once on a trip to Russia with the president, he missed a flight on Air Force One because he had been out drinking all night.

He implied he had good stories to tell about Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), but didn’t share. The ITK informant wasn’t sure whether Lockhart was joking.

During the Q&A segment, a press secretary asked Lockhart how seriously insider papers such as The Hill should be taken.
Lockhart asked the crowd how many people read them, and practically everyone shot up their hands. “They’re not all important,” Lockhart said. “But they are clearly important to some.”



Announcements

Lobbyist and wife expecting in September


Ben McKay, a lobbyist for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, and his wife, Danielle, are expecting the birth of their first child in September.

McKay is thrilled about a Sept. 24 due date because the baby will be a Libra. “Balance and justice — love it,” he said.
Names are another matter, and a baby-naming book has only made the process more complicated.

Here is the breakdown for boys’ and girls’ names:

Boys: Ronin (Irish; also Japanese for rogue samurai warrior); Rohan; Amadeus (“My wife isn’t buying this one,” McKay remarked.)

Girls: Hayden; Tanner; Seneca.

“When I tell people these names, they always ask if my wife is Japanese or Native American,” McKay said. “She is Irish-Italian.”

After having two dreams about the child, McKay is convinced the baby will be a girl.



Grassley staffer dies

Betty Burger, a staffer to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), died Saturday at age 87.  She was Grassley’s longest and oldest staffer as well as his chief caseworker.

“She was still on the payroll as of Saturday,” Grassley said in a floor speech dedicated to her.

“Although I am deeply saddened by her departure, it brings me comfort to know this devoted mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother slipped peacefully into the hands of her maker.”

Burger joined Grassley’s staff  when he was elected to the House in 1974.

“If Congress needed any rationale for eliminating mandatory retirement age in 1986, Betty Burger is that example,” said Grassley. “As my chief caseworker, Betty earned a lifetime of experience on the job mastering the ins and outs of the federal bureaucracy.”