Rep. Hensarling’s committee aides get the shaft — literally

Being in the minority has its downfalls. For two of Rep. Jeb Hensarling’s (R-Texas) aides, working on the Republican Study Committee (RSC) has meant spending the past three months working in a room that was once an elevator shaft.

“Location! Location! Location!” jokes RSC spokesman Brad Dayspring.

No joke. Each day, Paul Teller, the committee’s deputy director, and Derek Baker, a professional staff member, take those golden elevators in the Longworth House Office Building to the second floor and arrive at their office: the third elevator, 1209A, which they have nicknamed “The Shaft.” They keep the door open since the room has no windows or vents. Talk of creating a vent was in the works, but a little white fan seems to do the trick.

ITK toured “The Shaft” Monday afternoon and found it more like a college dorm room than a congressional office. The small square space has the fan, a small fridge full of soda, and posters of maps on the wall.

When Republicans were in the majority, they worked out of a larger room on the fourth floor with five or six other aides — and windows. But times are tough and these aides know that real estate is hard to come by.

One perk of their strange situation is that the location is high-traffic. Lawmakers visit them regularly.

“Fortunately we like each other,” said Teller. To which his sidekick Baker retorted, “Most of the time.”

The elevator jokes are endless: Teller wonders if there’s a button in the 8-by-8 space that could lower them to the cafeteria, without crushing anyone, of course. And Baker says, “You have to admit, access to the elevator is pretty good.”


Rep. McHenry turns prickly with ‘Hardball’ host Matthews
Congressman insists on ride home after the show

No doubt Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball,” can be a blabbermouth.

So what’s a congressional guest to do?

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) recently appeared on the show with Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.). Davis is passive and quiet when someone else is mid-tirade.

McHenry? Not so quiet.

The subject matter was the war in Iraq. But what’s important was the tone of the discussion.

At one point McHenry grew so exasperated by Matthews’s interruptions that he snapped, “If you’re going to fight me on your show, Chris, let me answer a question for God’s sakes.”

Matthews momentarily let up, but never apologized for the testy moment. “Chris is an equal-opportunity interrupter,” said Davis.

McHenry wasn’t so sure. “Normally he’ll allow you to finish a sentence,” he said, adding, “Chris is great because he’s in your face.”

After the show, McHenry and his spokesman, Aaron Latham, went to meet their driver, as arranged by the show’s producers, to take them back to Capitol Hill. 

But where was their driver? After no driver would admit to belonging to them, McHenry again grew upset.

Finally, the driver of a black Town Car perked up when asked if anyone was there for “Hardball with Chris Matthews.”

“We cabbed it over,” said Latham, but “after an interview like that there was just absolutely no way we weren’t taking his car for ourselves.”

Latham reasoned, “At the end of the day, which is worse: to get berated on national TV or not get a ride home? In that sense we’re all even.”
 

Rep. Serrano defends knowledge of Sinatra song

Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) is an unabashed Frank Sinatra fan, so much so that his personal e-mail address incorporates the famed singer.

Last week he was crooning Frank’s “Fly Me to the Moon” to two female aides outside the Democratic Caucus when one aide accused him of butchering the lyrics. “Let me sing among the stars/ Let me see what spring is like on a Jupiter and Mars,” he sang. One of the ladies interrupted and said, “I thought it was ‘play among the stars.’”

To which Serrano replied, “Don’t ever question a poet.”


Sen. Obama disregards Maureen Dowd’s column

After Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) wife, Michelle, got shredded in Maureen Dowd’s New York Times column last week — Dowd claimed it’s irritating to watch her publicly scold and tease her husband — ITK wondered, how was Obama feeling, scolded and teased? 

“I’m a lucky man to be married to my wife,” Obama said, turning stern and serious as he walked into the Senate Chamber.



The Nina Totin’ Bag: The bag to collect, the woman to remember

NPR handed out Nina Totin’ Bags on Capitol Hill last week — a canvas number with four Andy Warhol-inspired faces of NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg.

But the bag wasn’t all. Totenberg came to the Hill in honor of NPR’s lobby day and sang The Temptations’  “My Girl.”   

Asked if she has sung publicly before, Totenberg replied, “Oh, many, many, many times. I sang at my own wedding. I sang ‘Time after Time’ to my husband.”

Singing in public never makes her nervous. “I’m the daughter of a musician, so I know how to sing,” she said. “I was born with a really good voice.”

At 96, Totenberg’s father still teaches violin at Boston University. He was a child prodigy who played a solo with the Warsaw Philharmonic when he was 11.

Totenberg’s Totin’ bag is now a collector’s item, explains NPR spokeswoman Leah Yoon, because there are none left. Totenberg received 10 of the bags. Her husband, vice president of surgery at Inova-Fairfax Hospital, carries one to work.
Her children and grandchildren are also gift recipients.

On the bag, Totenberg wears purple and green eye shadow. “I like it,” Totenberg said in a phone interview with ITK. “I don’t look ugly, so that’s all that matters.”


Rep. Ryan shaves off Spring Break beard

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) is looking well-groomed again. Over the congressional recess, when he traveled to India and Pakistan, he trimmed the stubble at the base of his neck but grew a full beard.

“It was the equivalent to [Rep.] Steve LaTourette,” Ryan boasted last week, referring to the Ohio Republican’s scruff.

Ryan said there was no profound reason for his decision to grow the beard. “I may bring it back in the winter,” he said. “Men have this very difficult fashion decision — beard or no beard.”

One thing he admits: “I hate shaving, really,” he said. “I have a very sensitive face.”


Christina Ricci’s handlers keep her on short leash

Her skin is hauntingly chalk-white. She’s Hollywood-thin. And who can forget actress Christina Ricci’s character of Wednesday Addams in “The Addams Family”?

Last week, the actress came to Capitol Hill dressed in black and navy from head to toe to play another role: rape awareness activist.

She was here on behalf of RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) to ask lawmakers for full funding of the Justice for All Act, designed to help solve rape cases, as well as the Adam Walsh Act.

Like any Hollywood starlet, she needed an entourage — three women in tow from whom she takes her orders. Ricci was sweet, blaming her tight schedule and the fact that ITK’s interview with her was chopped from 20 minutes to 180 seconds on those mean handlers.

So a frantic 180 seconds it was. Ricci, thankfully, has never been raped. But she has been working with RAINN for the past seven years to raise awareness. In her recent movie, “Black Snake Moan,” in which she co-stars with Samuel L. Jackson, she is tied up to a radiator for hours in nothing but panties.

Was that a difficult role? “It was, but it was incredibly gratifying,” Ricci said. “She is a survivor. It was very emotional and strenuous, certainly.”


Jolie gets ‘tactful’ coverage at National Press Club

It was paparazzi-lite at the National Press Club last week when Angelina Jolie showed up to promote the Global Action for Children, joining a panel of experts such as Executive Director Jennifer Delaney and the Center for American Progress’s Gene Sperling.

Despite a semi-crass comment from a pony-tailed photographer before the event began — “Ohhhh, too much estrogen in here, a chick event” — it didn’t feel out of hand even when a couple rows of photographer’s flashbulbs were in constant flutter every time Jolie breathed.

“We organized the press event. Security concerns, no — we were very tactful in who we invited,” explained Ashley Prime of Quinn Gillespie & Associates, one of the event’s public relations organizers.

Jolie and the other panelists entered the room through a special back door. Guests were permitted to ask questions, all of which went straight to Jolie. When it was time to end, audience members were instructed to remain seated until the panel left the room.