Lawmakers set to meet Blackwater’s Erik Prince at ‘special’ RSC meeting

The following memo was sent to members of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) for a Wednesday meeting.

“All RSC Members are encouraged to join Rep. [Patrick] McHenry [R-N.C.] in welcoming Blackwater’s Erik Prince to a Special RSC Members’ meeting … As you may know, Mr. Erik Prince, founder and CEO of Blackwater USA, testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in October. His company has been under intense scrutiny by Congress, government agencies, and the media regarding contracts and actions in Iraq. Not only has Mr. Prince personally been targeted by partisan warfare repeatedly over the past months, but the use of contracting throughout the government has been under attack by this Congress.”

The event appears to be exclusive.

“To RSVP for your Member, or if you have additional questions, please contact Casey Hastings in Rep. McHenry’s office at casey.hastings@mail.house.gov. (For now, please assume this is a Members–only event.)”

The Republican Study Committee, specifically McHenry, Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), initiated this special meeting because “some of our members thought it would be good to be exposed directly to the issues involving Blackwater instead of reading about them second- and third-hand in the newspaper,” said a GOP aide.

The aide added that Prince would fly into Washington specifically for this meeting.


Computer glitch makes Rep. Pete King a king of sorts

Two days ago, all you had to do was type in www.house.gov/Kingston. And where did you go? Straight to Rep. Pete King’s (R-N.Y.) website.

Does Pete King, ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee, have Web authority over Reps. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and Steve King (R-Iowa)?

“Of course Peter King has computer dominance over me,” joked Kingston. “He’s the former Homeland Security chairman and controls all communication. It’s obviously an illegal wiretap. He is known for unauthorized wiretaps on fellow members. He has probably hacked into my system and reads my e-mail on a regular basis. I’m on the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee and obviously a person of importance.”

To get to Rep. Steve King, one must type in his full name after the slash. The matter with Kingston’s website has since been remedied.

Rep. Pete King had no comment on his cyberspace prowess.


New facial hair for Sens. Coburn and Domenici

The week after Thanksgiving recess has brought new facial hair for two senators. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has a new beard. “It’s gray and trimmed and sculpted,” said an ITK informant. “It makes him look like a German fashion designer.”

Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), meanwhile, is growing a brand new goatee, which, at the moment, is a strong tuft of hair sprouting on his chin and a slight mustache, giving him the look of a craggy old rancher.

John Hart, Coburn’s spokesman, said, “He hasn’t decided to grow a beard as much as he decided to stop shaving, that’s what he’s been telling people.”

When asked how he’d rate the beard, Hart replied, “Personally, I think it’s a good look for him.”

Chris Gallegos, Domenici’s spokesman, did not comment on his boss’s new growth by press time.


The newly thin Lou Dobbs

CNN’s controversial talk show host Lou Dobbs is looking svelte in the face these days. It turns out it is not intentional — he is not the new spokesman for Jenny Craig. In fact, Dobbs’s weight loss can be attributed to a recent tonsillectomy.

The weight loss was a byproduct of having the surgery, after which he was allowed to eat only ice chips, a CNN spokesman has confirmed.

Dobbs was off the air for two weeks as a result of the surgery. No word on whether his heft will return.


With new producer, ‘Hardball’ promises more ‘whimsy’

John Reiss, the brand-new executive producer of “Hardball” with Chris Matthews on MSNBC, declares, “Oh, you won’t even recognize [the show]” after he gets done with it.

That’s in jest. More seriously, he says, “It’s not that I’m coming in to rescue it. It’s the standard for political shows.

You’re not going to go, ‘Where is my “Hardball?” ’ ”

But Reiss, who has worked for the likes of Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw, still has ideas on how to improve the show. While he won’t reveal his secret plans just yet, he says, “What you’re going to see is a lot more branding on the show. We’re going to try to do an even better job at having recognizable segments on the broadcast.”

Reiss also wants to make the most of what he calls Matthews’s fabulous sense of humor. “I want to take advantage of that,” he says. “I want to add a little whimsy to the broadcast. You don’t want to do 60 minutes of vegetables. It doesn’t have to be served up as old-style cough medicine.”

As funny as he purports Matthews to be, Reiss won’t likely encourage Matthews to return to “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart anytime soon, given how disastrously the last time went. But he also admits he did not see the show, in which Matthews famously cried out, “This is a book interview from hell!” after Stewart ridiculed his new book, Life’s a Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation and Success.

Not to cause too much shock too soon, Reiss says Matthews will continue to interrupt his guests. “You know, I think he’ll always be interrupting people to a certain extent. It’s part of his DNA and charm.”

Reiss comes eagerly to the post. He was the Washington news clerk for The New York Times, producer for “Good Morning America,” senior producer at “Dateline,” senior broadcast producer at “NBC Nightly News” with Brokaw and executive producer for “NBC Nightly News” with Williams.

Reiss admits that Matthews has the most unique personality among those he has overseen for news shows. “What little I’ve seen so far, he is in person what he is on the air — he enjoys life, he is boisterous, fun and funny and occasionally loud.”


Announcements

Say hello to Grandpa Taylor

Rep. Gene Taylor (D) has become a grandfather for the first time. Congratulations go out to the Mississippi lawmaker on the birth of his grandson, Connor Alexander. He is the son of Taylor’s daughter, Sarah Fanberg.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Taylor. “I get to see him almost every weekend.”

As for what it’s like to become a grandfather, Taylor replied, “These things happen. It’s [a] happy [time] because she had some trouble during her pregnancy, but the baby is perfect.”

Taylor is surprised by how quiet the infant is. “His mom had a set of lungs,” he said, laughing.