By Christina Wilkie - 09/30/09 11:01 PM EDT
A 1-800 number owned by a liberal group that connects callers to the Capitol switchboard is being hijacked by conservatives.
Families USA, a left-leaning consumer group that supports Democratic efforts on healthcare reform, has launched a campaign urging people to call Congress to pass a bill.
Because Congress does not have an 800 number and outside-the-Beltway Americans would have to pay for the long-distance call, Families USA has given out its number, which directs callers to the Capitol switchboard. (Families USA has asked ITK not to print the number.)
Families USA spokesman David Lemmon says the number has been used by a variety of conservative groups, bloggers and non-healthcare-related groups. Indeed.
The number appears more than 500,000 times in a Google search.
“It’s pretty ironic,” said Lemmon, “that some of the groups passing out our number are completely opposed to healthcare reform.”
Of course, nothing’s entirely free — a no-charge Capitol call will cost you 20 seconds’ time listening to a pre-recorded message, courtesy of Families USA.
ITK contacted the Senate sergeant at arms’s office, where CIO Kimball Winn confirmed that this wasn’t the first time an 800 number had appeared on his radar, noting that his office does not need to approve who uses the number, and that any number can be redirected to the Capitol.
Lemmon said, “It comes down to a question of costs, and until there’s an 800 number for the Capitol switchboard, this is the only way for people to call the Capitol without incurring costs.”
Asked whether Congress had ever considered installing its own 800 number, a well-placed source told ITK that “nobody has ever asked for it.”
Conservative groups are not the only ones using the 800 number, which Families USA has owned for years.
Sources say Capitol Hill staffers and interns have given out the number to family and friends in order to help them avoid long-distance charges.
“That’s probably shifted a little because of cell phones,” said one source, “but every so often there will still be a call from someone who is irate that the switchboard has ‘turned off their 800 number.’ ”
Palmer watches Obama sign his bill into law, then cries
Legendary golfer Arnold Palmer laughed, and cried, during a ceremony on Capitol Hill honoring him Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, Palmer watched President Barack Obama sign the Arnold Palmer Congressional Gold Medal Act into law.
Palmer recounted that after the president signed the bill, he leaned over to him and said, “I liked to play golf, but I don’t cheat.”
Hmmmm — could that be a shot at former President Bill Clinton? The 41st president was known for using his share of mulligans.
Palmer reflected on what the new law means to him. “I suppose one of the most important things about my being here and about the things I have been able to do,” he said, beginning to cry, “is to say thank you for a great country.”
A dozen lawmakers, including Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.), attended the press event. Baca, who is one of the best golfers in Congress, sponsored the legislation on Palmer.
Hollywood on the Potomac: Sound familiar?
A new political book filled with photographs of celebrities and politicians was released last week under a familiar title, Hollywood on the Potomac.
So familiar a title, in fact, that the paperback photo book was nearly slapped with a lawsuit by Washington publicist Janet Donovan, who is the owner of the trademarked phrase “Hollywood on the Potomac.”
Donovan has written a column about L.A. celebrities in Washington, called “Hollywood on the Potomac,” since 2002, the same year she filed her initial trademark registration paperwork. The column appears in print monthly in Washington Life magazine, and as a blog at hollywoodonthepotomac.blogspot.com.
(Full disclosure: ITK’s editor used to work for Washington Life.)
Reached for comment, the publisher of the book, Arcadia Publishing, shifted blame for the trademark snafu onto the author, former Republican National Committee campaign strategist Jason Killian Meath.
“The author signed a contract confirming that they’ve received permission to use any copyrighted material in the book,” said P.J. Norlander, marketing director at Arcadia.
“But there’s certainly a lot of gray area here,” she said, adding, “We’d be happy to come to a resolution with the owner of the copyright.”
According to Donovan, further resolution won’t be necessary ... this time. “I’m going to give them a pass on this one,” she told ITK. “It’s a book, so what would I do, make them pull the book from the shelves?”
That’s exactly what she could do, according to her attorney, and it wouldn’t be the first time Donovan has had to take legal action to protect her trademarked phrase.
The most recent incident occurred when “Hollywood on the Potomac” appeared at the top of a website called wrap.com.
“My lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter and they pulled it down,” said Donovan.
Meath may have been spared the destruction of his book, but as far as he’s concerned, it was his publisher’s job to make sure the title didn’t violate any laws. “We went through a lot of different titles while we were planning the book,” he told ITK, “and of course, the final decision on that is in the hands of the publisher.”
McCain gives January Jones a one-hour tour
The best stop on actress January Jones’s recent visit to Washington? A one-hour tour of the Capitol with a very special tour guide, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
“I’ve never been to D.C.,” Jones told ITK during a chat at The Hill’s downtown offices, “and when I told [McCain] that, he said, ‘Well, you’ve got to see the best view in the city!’ ”
McCain took Jones, who plays Betty Draper on the Emmy award-winning AMC drama “Mad Men,” on a full tour, including a ride on the Capitol subway, a stop on the Senate floor and a photo-op on the balcony overlooking the National Mall.
“He was so gracious and nice,” said Jones. “People recognized him and tourists stopped him, and I just stood there while they said hello to them.”
Asked whether McCain watches “Mad Men,” Jones laughed. “Yes!” she replied. “He even scolded me, because in the latest episode, Betty met with a lobbyist!”
Jones, who hails from South Dakota, was on Capitol Hill on Tuesday and Wednesday, lobbying for an end to the practice of harvesting shark fins in American waters, an unlikely choice of cause for a woman who was 15 years old when she first saw the ocean.