By Betsy Rothstein - 01/15/08 06:25 PM EST
Hiring family members to work in a congressional office may sound like something a lawmaker would be apt to avoid, but some have done it for years.
At the moment, the chief of staff and press secretary to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) is Mikael Moore, her grandson.
Call it nepotism if you will, but according to House rules, while members are forbidden from hiring their children, there is no rule against grandchildren. As for spouses, they cannot be hired unless they were working in the office prior to marriage. This was the case in the office of Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), whose wife, Arlene Willis, was his longtime chief of staff before she married him.
Nepotism rules are strict. A lawmaker may not hire the following relatives, as outlined on the House Administration Committee website:
Aunt, half-sister, son-in-law, brother, husband, stepbrother, brother-in-law, mother, stepdaughter, daughter, mother-in-law, stepfather, daughter-in-law, nephew, stepmother, father, niece, stepsister, stepson, father-in-law, sister, first cousin, sister-in-law, uncle, half-brother, son and wife.
Grandchildren, however, are fair game.
For the past three years, Moore, 29, has worked for Waters and knew this story would come sooner or later. He doesn’t hide the fact that he’s the congresswoman’s grandson; he doesn’t flaunt it either.
“I consider it an amazing opportunity, an amazing honor,” Moore said. “Not only do I have great admiration for her as my grandmother but I have great admiration for her as one of the great political figures of this nation and the world.”
Moore always calls his boss “congresswoman,” and never “grandma.”
After graduating from Morehouse College in 2004, he first went to work for her by staffing her at the Democratic Convention in Boston that same year. After that, he came to work as her staff assistant and moved up the ranks.
“People probably think it’s illegal,” he said of their work relationship, “but grandchildren are not illegal. I show respect to the Congress and to my colleagues and ask to be judged by the work that I do.”
Lastly, how does he share a famous name with the controversial filmmaker? “I have gotten some interesting phone calls from people who think Michael Moore quit his film career and came to work for Congresswoman Waters,” he said, laughing.
Keyes must have his sci-fi fix
Few people know where Alan Keyes has been since his much-ballyhooed cameo appearance in The Des Moines Register Republican presidential debate in December.
But people who know Keyes know exactly where he was hours before the debate: watching science fiction.
The quixotic presidential long-shot has one of the strangest debate prep routines in all of politics, according to former campaign manager Bill Pascoe, who ran Keyes’s 2004 Illinois Senate campaign. Pascoe said that Keyes must watch a sci-fi movie, with lots of explosions, in a movie theater before he takes on political opponents face to face.
Not only that — Keyes is a huge “Star Trek” fan who once took time off from Labor Day campaign events to attend a charity paintball event with Captain Kirk, aka William Shatner.
Pascoe, a more casual “Star Trek” fan, said he remembers a transplanted Keyes buying a series of “Star Trek” episodes at Wal-Mart when he was moving in to his new Illinois apartment. Keyes was not sure when his show would be on in his adopted state, and he needed his fix.
And prior to a 2004 debate with then-state Sen. Barack Obama (D), Keyes staffers were forced to drive the candidate 25 miles out of their way so he could see “Alien vs. Predator,” which was showing only in second-run theaters at the time.
Unfortunately for Keyes, the “Alien vs. Predator” sequel came out on Christmas Day last month, nearly two weeks after the Des Moines debate. Maybe that’s why he came off so outlandish, at one point saying there was a lot of “hot air” on stage. “Heal thyself, doctor,” former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney scolded him at one point.
Keyes’s campaign did not return calls on the matter.
Telephone issues in the office of Rep. Engel
If you tried phoning the office of Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) Monday morning, you were likely to be met with major chaos and confusion with a new intern at the helm of the phone operation.
After five tries of phoning the office and being put on hold for several minutes or cut off, the intern put the “intern coordinator” on the phone, who also didn’t seem to have a grasp of phone transferring.
At long last, ITK was connected with spokesman Joe O’Brien, who works out of Engel’s Bronx office.
“Call collect next time,” O’Brien offered in response to the office’s phone issues.
Rep. Meek goes green at daughter’s request
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) may be in the process of greening the Capitol, but there is other greening going on. At the urging of his environmentally conscious daughter Lauren, age 12, Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) and his wife Leslie purchased a gray hybrid automobile in Florida over the recess.
The 2008 Ford Escape hybrid, which gets 30 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg for city driving, replaces the now-semi-retired gas-guzzling GMC Suburban. “We went from driving a tank to a golf cart,” said Meek. Lauren added, “The environment and the war are my top issues, and Dad knows that I’ll be a voter one day.”
Dem seeks low-level aide/chauffeur: must have car
The following ad was passed around the House before the congressional recess.
Staff Assistant — Northeastern Democratic Congressman seeks to fill an entry-level position in an active, fast-paced office. Responsibilities include driving the Congressman, answering telephones, processing tour and flag requests and more. Our office promotes from within, so candidates should have excellent verbal and written communication skills. New York ties a plus. Applicants must have a car. Qualified applicants should send a resume and cover letter to the attention of the Chief of Staff at firstname.lastname@example.org. No calls, faxes, or drop-ins, please.
As a general rule, staffers’ cars must be American-made. One House Democratic spokesman remarked, “They get roped into driving the member, and on our side of the aisle members don’t want to drive (or be driven evidently) in non-American (union) cars. Some kid’s making 25 grand a year, and you make them bring a car to work? It does beg a lot of questions, like, what if the kid rolls up in an 1982 Dodge Dart?”
ITK called all 16 offices of Democratic congressmen from New York, but none admitted to placing the ad.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg offers poignant memories of anti-Semitism
In a rare public appearance last Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg showed up to the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue to promote the new six-hour PBS documentary, “The Jewish Americans,” in which she appears.
Dressed in a long deep-red blouse and black pants, Ginsburg’s figure appeared tiny in the champagne chair in which she sat on stage.
Ginsburg described the court’s own history with anti-Semitism, noting that when Justices James Clark McReynolds and Louis Brandeis served together during the inter-war years, Reynolds would leave the room whenever Brandeis spoke. She also spoke of the anti-Semitism she sensed as a student at Cornell University in the 1950s. She recalled that her dormitory hallway was filled with all Jewish women like herself.
“Were they trying to prevent them from contaminating others?” she asked, adding that she counts these women among her dearest friends.
Although she was once the camp rabbi at summer camp, Ginsburg said she is no longer very serious about her religion. But she said it does play a significant role in her life, mentioning the “largest, most beautiful mezuzah you’ve ever seen” hanging in her private chambers.