By Betsy Rothstein - 04/16/08 05:00 PM EDT
Happy nine-year anniversary, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) — or not.
A brand new ad debuted this past Monday in The Boston Globe and nine other newspapers across Massachusetts from Republican opponent Jim Ogonowski.
“We want to recognize you for being one of the most ineffective legislators in the U.S. Senate,” the ad states, continuing with the phrase, “Go celebrate like it’s 1999.” It notes Kerry has not been the lead sponsor on a bill that has become law since 1999.
Readers can cut out a coupon that reads: “Happy Anniversary: No doubt this is a special day for you. We’ll remember your many accomplishments on November 4th.”
Go online and you’ll find that Ogonowski’s website has even more scathing things to say about Kerry. To the accompaniment of island beach music, visitors may click on a button to “Contribute to retire John Kerry.”
While Ogonowski’s ad may be unconventional, his story is serious. He’s a retired Air Force lieutenant whose brother had originally piloted one of the planes that would crash into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Ogonowski ran for Congress this fall in a special election to replace Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.); Democrat Niki Tsongas beat him by six points.
A memo released by the Kerry campaign disputes Ogonowski’s assertions and lists 13 pieces of legislation that the senator has passed, several after 1999.
“NRSC must stand for ‘nobody really shows competence,’ wrote Kerry spokesman David Wade in an e-mail Wednesday. “When people get their facts this wrong they usually lose on the first round of ‘Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader.’ John Kerry was ranked the twelfth most powerful Senator. … No wonder our Democratic Majority in the Senate will grow in November.”
But his opponent says it isn’t so.
“The fact of the matter is John Kerry has been in Congress for 24 years and has only sponsored eight pieces of legislation,” Ogonowksi told ITK Wednesday morning.
“He’s listed bills he voted for, but … he wasn’t the lead sponsor of them.”
As of Thursday, Ogonowksi has $186,962 on hand; Kerry has $9.1 million.
Rep. Sutton’s big win as Rep. Berkley’s new tenant
Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) couldn’t be more relieved now that she is out of her shoebox apartment and the new tenant to Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), who apparently is holding onto a coveted basement apartment.
“Let’s just say it’s a lot better than the last place I lived,” said Sutton, who moved in two weeks ago.
The apartment is two blocks from her Longworth office and boasts of 21st-century appliances. Just two years old, the home was the first new construction on Capitol Hill in 100 years, Berkley explained. Sutton was first on a list of lawmakers seeking the apartment. The last tenant, Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), recently moved out, leaving a vacancy.
Berkley was gracious, Sutton said, and placed her “at the top of the list.” Berkley said she had “a number of” other inquiries for the apartment, but remarked that Sutton received the most endorsements, including that of Cardoza.
“They were heartbroken,” Berkley joked of her other prospective tenants. “I’d rather not name names — to protect their feelings.”
Berkley said compatibility was important.
“Not only did she have to be compatible with me, but also with the congresswomen next door,” Berkley said, explaining that Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) owns a townhouse and rents rooms to Reps. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).
But was there one special quality Berkley was looking for ?
“Yeah,” she cracked. “Someone that can afford the rent. That was very important.”
When Sutton first arrived on the scene last January, she had no time to look for an apartment, so she signed up for a place near the Supreme Court sight unseen. And it was rough — a 400-square-foot space so small that she couldn’t fit a real bed in it.
She slept on a futon. “It was a very glamorous life,” she said, laughing. “It was a good location. That’s where the good news ended.”
Before she acquired Berkley’s basement apartment, she’d heard a lot about it, recalling Cardoza’s kitchen skills and how he often cooked for colleagues. “I hope the apartment doesn’t come with expectations,” she joked, mentioning the frozen dinners she recently bought.
Lawmakers weighed retirement with rock band membership
The congressional band the Second Amendments, composed of Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.), Dave Weldon (R-Fla.), Jon Porter (R-Nev.) and Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), will soon change.
With the retirements of Hulshof and Weldon, the band needs new blood. The new band, confirmed Peterson, will include Rep. Bill Sali (R-Idaho) on drums and Rep. John Hall (D-N.Y.), co-founder of the 1970s band Orleans, on vocals or keyboards. Both Sali and Hall have already begun practicing with the group.
Peterson said Hulshof and Weldon seriously weighed their retirements because of their membership in the band. “Frankly, one of the main things they had to consider was the band,” he said. “I don’t know how much, but it was a consideration.”
“He absolutely did,” said Hulshof spokesman Erik Rasmussen. “Kenny has established a great friendship with the members of the band. It’ll be a lifelong friendship. He’ll miss them terribly.”
“Obviously, I think he was joking,” said Weldon spokesman Jeremy Steffens of Peterson’s remarks.
“[Weldon] enjoys playing in the band, but I don’t think he’d stay in Congress just to stay in the band. He’s leaving because he wants to go spend time with his family and return to his medical practice. I’m not sure [the band] is why he has stayed in Congress the last seven terms.”
Band members are contemplating calling themselves the Fifth Amendments. “The Second Amendments are going to take the Fifth,” Peterson joked.
But on a serious note, change isn’t easy. “There is some nostalgia that the band is going to change because we bonded in Iraq,” he said, referring to the group’s musical missions.
Rep. Hoyer to appear on high school quiz show
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) will appear on local NBC quiz show “It’s Academic” on May 3 at 10:30 a.m. Last month the show added a “celebrity” component in which so-called famous people ask competing high school students a question.
All appearances are pre-taped. Hoyer’s first question: “The first Speaker was Frederick Muhlenberg, from what Keystone State?”
(Hint. Hint. There may be a primary there next week.)
Guests who have appeared include Lynda Carter, who played Wonder Woman, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Future guests include NBC host of “Meet the Press” Tim Russert, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.).