Bloomberg gets after party competition

Enterprising party crashers will have a fallback position after the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner this year, as Reuters throws a bash of its own to compete with the traditional toughest ticket in town, the Bloomberg after-party.

Enterprising party crashers will have a fallback position after the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner this year, as Reuters throws a bash of its own to compete with the traditional toughest ticket in town, the Bloomberg after-party.

For this, its first foray into the world of after-parties, Reuters will throw its soiree at Kstreet, the hip new lounge at 13th and K streets, according to a source familiar with the event. The smallish number of revelers — capacity of the bar is about 300 people — will be treated to open bar and DJ music.

Formerly sponsored by George magazine and Vanity Fair, the Bloomberg bash is among the year’s most exclusive events, as several hundred more than the 500-odd people with invites attempt to crash the gates.

Many of the celebs at the dinner — which this year include Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, HBO’s Bill Maher, New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan and Alex Trebek of “Jeopardy” — are often among the guests who trot over to the Bloomberg party each year, invites in hand.

Not that Reuters is going to wow ’em with boldface names. “Our version of a celebrity is Condoleezza Rice,” a source at the news service said.

After-parties have become the topic of some intrigue of late. Fox News announced before last week’s Radio-TV Correspondents’ Association dinner that it would no longer hold an after-party at the Hilton Washington, the event’s longtime venue, leaving CNN and CBS to host its parties there.

But lo and behold, Fox ended up holding an off-site after-party, at Eyebar.

Sanchez backs out of Vietnam trip

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) is involved in a game of “he said, she said” with the Vietnamese government, which has led her to cancel a trip to the Southeast Asian country she planned for this week.

Sanchez, whose Orange County district contains a large Vietnamese population, visited the country in 2000 with President Clinton. She has attempted to return twice before, said her spokeswoman, Carrie Brooks, but the Vietnamese government has never approved her request.

Then last year, Madame Ton Nu Thi Ninh, vice chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Vietnam’s National Assembly, invited Sanchez to visit.

Sanchez submitted an application late last month to visit April 12-17. She planned to travel to Hanoi, Saigon and the Central Highlands to meet with dissidents and advocates of religious freedom and women’s rights.

She was told April 6 that her request could not be accommodated because of the upcoming Vietnamese Party Congress taking place in Hanoi, and because Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) had a separate trade delegation of seven members visiting April 14-17.

But, noted Brooks, the Vietnamese approved in one day a visa application by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) to visit on her own this week as well.

At any rate, Sanchez asked Hastert to include her in the codel, and he wrote a letter to the Vietnamese government. They approved the request Friday, but with a catch: Sanchez could only visit from the 14th until the 17th, only go to Hanoi and only partake in the activities of Hastert’s delegation.

No thanks, said Sanchez. “I’m particularly disappointed because Madame Ninh made a personal commitment to allow me to visit her in Vietnam — a promise she made during a visit where she was welcomed by the United States for nearly a month,” Sanchez said in statement. “The Vietnamese government tells us that they embrace democratic values, but one has to wonder why they are so concerned about allowing a U.S. member of Congress to speak and travel freely in their nation.”

For her part, Ninh told the Vietnam News Agency that she wrote Sanchez “a personal letter requesting that she postpone her visit ’til after the Party Congress and saying that ‘we are willing to facilitate your visit at any time convenient to you after the Party Congress.’ It cannot be stated therefore that her request to visit was turned down.”

Sanchez said she plans to try yet again.

Scenes from opening day

No one will mistake Vice President Cheney’s pitching arm for a weapon of mass destruction.

Cheney took the field for the Nationals’ home opener at RFK at 12:59 p.m. yesterday, donning a red-and-blue Nationals jacket. He was greeted by an exceptionally loud chorus of cheers and boos. His pitch struck the dirt, low and away to a right-handed hitter.

The cheering and jeering broke down a little more evenly than his approval rating, although there may have been some class division, with the folks behind the Nationals dugout applauding vigorously.

Last year, some of those seats were occupied by White House aides, but it was unclear whether yesterday’s applause came courtesy of Karl Rove, Josh Bolten et. al.

And if anyone was wondering where NBC’s Washington bureau was yesterday, big-time Nats fans and media celebs Tim Russert and David Gregory were on hand at RFK.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), baseball fan extraordinaire and husband of Major League Baseball lobbyist Lucy Calautti, chatted Russert up in an aisle behind the Nats dugout. Conrad appeared to be without his signature budget charts.

Harper’s lands Washington editor

Harper’s magazine has hired Los Angeles Times investigative reporter Ken Silverstein as its Washington editor, as the magazine begins to ramp up its D.C. coverage.

Silverstein had been a contributing editor to Harper’s before joining the Times and had continued to contribute pieces to the magazine. He has covered topics such as intelligence collaboration between the CIA and controversial foreign governments in Sudan and Libya, political corruption in Washington and abroad, and links between American oil companies and repressive foreign governments.

“We have watched him develop into one of the premier investigative reporters in the country,” said Harper’s editor Roger Hodge, who assumed his post last week.

Hodge said Silverstein would be doing four to five major stories per year plus “smaller pieces as they’re warranted” and a reported blog for the magazine’s website.

Thompson stumps for Chafee

Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) may not be getting much support from the conservative faithful in his bid for reelection this year, but he got some star power behind him late last week as actor/former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) stumped on his behalf.

According to The Providence Journal, Thompson warned Republicans against voting for Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey, who’s challenging the centrist Chafee in the primary.

“I think purging is the last thing we ought to have on our minds these days,” Thompson said at the fundraiser, which pulled in $25,000. “Obviously, keeping control of the Senate is very important. I don’t like the sound of ‘Chairman Kennedy.’”

Thompson also noted that Laffey in 1994 had contributed to the Democrat who ran against him and the Democrat who ran against Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

Thompson joked that after eight years inside the Beltway, he “longed for the realism and sincerity of Hollywood.”