Local woman to Sen. Sanders: I’d be your gardener for free

After ITK dug up some dirt last week on the jungle-like front garden of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) Capitol Hill home, a local woman offered the lawmaker her green thumb.

Beth Herrick called ITK to see how she could get a simple message to Sanders: “I would offer to pull his weeds.”

Herrick, 56, a recent transplant from Albany, N.Y., is a social worker by training but hopes to find, um, fertile ground for a small gardening business in the capital city. Who better to be her first client than Sanders? ITK reported last week that the senator’s neighbors are considering going to the neighborhood association with complaints about his yard.

Sanders remarked, “I’ve been attacked for many things in my life, but this is the first time I’ve been attacked for my weeds. I can just see the 30-second negative ad.

“I’m glad I come from Vermont where neighbors actually talk to each other. In the four days a week that I usually spend in D.C., most of my time has been spent trying to address the war in Iraq, the oil crisis, global warming and the collapse of the middle class. My so-called garden is about two square feet. I’m sorry if I offended anyone and I will do my best to get rid of the 12 weeds so anyone who might want to can see the McCain sign in my neighbor’s yard.”

As for the senator’s situation, Herrick sees from both sides of the fence. She said she was “a little distressed” with the neighbors’ reaction to the Sanders garden’s unsightly overgrowth but understands that “their location demands a certain conformity to everybody else and that it’s a neat, clean block.”

Nevertheless, Sanders’s neglect of his front yard confounded the garden lady.

“I’m not sure if there was a reason that he’s letting the place go to pot,” she said.

Her offer stands: She charged $25 per hour for garden work in Albany but is not sure what the going rate would be in Washington.

For Sanders, she’d do it for free: “I would even do it just for the recognition and future clients.”

But the senator isn’t likely to accept. “I think it’s probably a violation of the gift rule,” said Sanders spokesman Mike Briggs.


Man arrested for cheeseburger, roast beef sandwich theft

Apparently those reports about food at House cafeterias improving are accurate.

U.S. Capitol Police recently nabbed a man seen walking out of the Rayburn cafeteria with a plastic bag filled with items he allegedly did not purchase.

When police stopped him and investigated the bag, they found one cheeseburger, two plastic containers with roast beef, cheese, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, one pewter cup, and four U.S. House of Representatives baseball caps.


Lott didn’t follow Breaux all the way

When former Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) decided to resign late last year, rumors buzzed in Washington that he would form a bipartisan lobbying firm with his good friend, former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.).

Eventually he did. But Lott didn’t join Breaux in one other venture: his speaking engagement firm.

Thanks to the new ethics rules passed last year, ITK can bring you exclusive news that Lott was in talks with not one but two different companies that would book his gigs for the dinner speech circuit. The Mississippi Republican was talking to both the Washington Speakers Bureau and Leading Authorities Inc. for the job, according to employment negotiations disclosure forms filed with the Senate Office of Public Records in December 2007.

Lott chose Washington Speakers Bureau in the end, joining such luminaries as former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, according to a search of both firms’ websites. Lott is not listed on the Leading Authorities site, but is on the Washington Speakers Bureau’s.

He chose differently than lobbying partner Breaux, who is listed on Leading Authorities’ site as a featured speaker with a fee of $10,001 to $20,000 for engagements in the D.C. area. Lott’s price is not listed on his firm’s website.

We might never know why Lott chose one firm over the other. An assistant for Lott said he was unavailable to comment. Messages left at both firms were not returned.


Symposium to address Bill Clinton as ‘first laddie,’ and other first lady issues

To some, the president’s spouse isn’t just style; she (or he) is substance, too.

That, among other presidential spousal issues, such as bringing children on the campaign trail, will be addressed at a symposium Saturday at the National First Lady’s Library in Canton, Ohio.

Eleanor Clift, of Newsweek magazine, will deliver the keynote address.

“The day when a spouse could sit out is over,” she said in a phone interview. “Howard Dean tried that briefly in 2004. Bill Clinton is obviously the most visible. He has been an enormous help — and a liability.”

Clift said Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) wife, Michelle, “has resisted bringing the kids out on the campaign trail,” but eventually had to, to show that Obama is not an “exotic creature.”

Clift says the “young and beautiful” Cyndi McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), brings “youth and vitality” to her aging husband.

The symposium also intends to address the vital question of what former President Clinton will be called should his wife become president.

“The term ‘first lady’ is unofficial,” says Carl Anthony, a first ladies historian and moderator of the event. A first male spouse, he said, could be called anything from his preferred “first gent” or Clinton’s own “first laddie” to “first gentleman” or Anthony’s least favorite, “first husband.”

Anthony says Bill Clinton would be the most fascinating of first spouses. “There would be a lot of funny jokes — Bill Clinton serving tea — but [also] the deep-seated ambivalence of women having power.”