By Jeff Dufour - 02/14/06 12:00 AM EST
George Lucas has quite a Valentine’s Day treat for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Only four days after House Republicans lampooned their rivals with a “Star Wars”-themed film, the bearded sage of the “Star Wars” universe will make a rare Hill appearance today alongside Pelosi and House Democrats.
At Friday’s House Republican retreat at Maryland’s Eastern Shore, a short video, produced by the National Republican Congressional Committee, depicted GOPers as the virtuous rebels, being pursued by “Darth Nancy” and her imperial henchmen, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Democratic campaign chief Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.).
But swooping in on his X-wing fighter to save the day for Democrats is none other than Lucas himself, who would undoubtedly take issue with the GOP’s analogy.
Lucas’s appearance proves that “the Force is with House Democrats” this year, Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said before adding that “Democrats” might be more appropriate because “our Senate colleagues are doing very well, too.”
Lucas, who doesn’t hide his Democratic leanings, has been critical of Republican administrations going back to Nixon. He even went so far as to inject — to the consternation of some fans — some unmistakable commentary on current events in his recent series of “Star Wars” films.
“One of the main features of the back story [of the saga] was to tell how the Republic became the Empire,” Lucas said at the Cannes Film Festival last year. “At the time I did that, it was during the Vietnam War and the Nixon era. The issue was … not how does a dictator take over but how does a democracy and Senate give it away?”
He added, “The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we are doing now in Iraq are unbelievable.”
At today’s event, in HC-5 at 11 a.m., Lucas will join Pelosi, Reps. George Miller (Calif.), Hilda Solis (Calif.) and Kendrick Meek (Fla.), and more than 100 college students “to discuss the need to create a new generation of innovators that reflects the diversity of our country.”
Crider said the event has been planned for weeks. She said Pelosi and Lucas have known each other for a long time, as Lucas’s company is based in her district.
New rules may keep Oxley off the foul line
House Financial Services Chairman Mike Oxley (R-Ohio) was one of only 50 no votes against the rules change that bars lobbyists who are former members from the House floor and gym.
And former Ways and Means Chairman Bill Archer (R-Texas) thinks he knows why.
Archer, introducing Oxley last week to a convention ballroom full of tax lawyers, joked that Oxley took pride in his record as congressional free-throw champion. And as he prepares to retire at the end of this year, he may be concerned about losing that beautiful stroke of his.
“The competition occurs in the House gym,” Archer said. “In speaking against the bill, he isolated himself from the vast majority of members, but I suspect he was looking forward to the end of his career when he would be able to use the gym. I suspect it was a little self-serving.”
Oxley’s spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
Oxley, one of Congress’s preeminent jocks and the chair of the informal committee that oversees the gym (sorry, “wellness center”), was one of several high-profile committee chairmen who spoke against the ban.
He called the gym “one of the last vestiges of bipartisanship and camaraderie in this institution that many of us share, many times with former members who have continually been members of the wellness center and have come down and enjoyed the camaraderie, the exercise.”
Archer also trotted out an old chestnut about Oxley’s newfound name recognition in the wake of his co-sponsorship of the landmark Sarbanes-Oxley anti-corporate fraud legislation.
“People think his first name is Sarbanes,” Archer cracked.
La Colline’s Zucconi: An aspiring lobbyist?
It might seem like an inopportune time to become a lobbyist, what with the Jack Abramoff scandal and all, but Paul Zucconi is ready to try his hand at it.
And why not? As the soon-to-be-ex-owner of one of Capitol Hill’s most popular restaurants, Zucconi knows just about every key member of Congress, and after Thursday he’ll be out of a job.
That’s because after nearly a quarter-century of business, La Colline shuts its doors on Thursday.
Asked Monday what he plans to do, Zucconi said, “I don’t know. But if anybody needs a lobbyist, my e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Because of the terms of the sale agreement, Zucconi wouldn’t say who the new owner is, but he said the site at 400 N. Capitol St. next to the Hall of States, with its spectacular view of the Capitol, will reopen in two or three months after extensive renovation.
But it won’t be the same kind of cuisine. “I’m not sure, but most likely it will be a seafood restaurant because there are too many steakhouses in this town,” he said.
Zucconi said he sold because “the timing and dollars were right. The business was never on the market, but everything is for sale at the right price.”
Zucconi, 55, said his family, which includes four children, the youngest of whom will graduate from high school this year, is pleased as well.
As for his final day in business on Thursday, Zucconi said, “We’ve got plenty of reservations. I guess people want to have a last supper.”
Miss Alabama comes to press gallery
The Hill is awash with tiara-collecting beauties these days.
Miss America 2006 Jennifer Berry had heads snapping and tails wagging at the Congressional Dinner last week. Now comes word that Scarlotte Deupree, Miss Alabama 2002 and the first runner-up for Miss America 2003, has taken a job in the Senate Periodical Press Gallery.
It’s not Deupree’s first stint on the Hill. During the winter of 2000, she served as an intern to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) — alongside another Miss Alabama contestant named Scarlet, no less.
And when she came oh-so-close to the Miss America crown for 2003, Sessions even paid tribute to her on the Senate floor for her “numerous and exceptional” accomplishments and her work on behalf of adult literacy awareness. He said that while said she toiled in his office she “produced excellent work, received high marks from my staff and contributed greatly.”
Reached last week, Deupree said that, after completing her graduate work, she was “looking for a way to get back involved in Washington.”
For now, she’ll be a liaison between Senate staff and the media.
So how are the cretins of the fourth estate behaving themselves? Very well, we hear.
“You wouldn’t even know it if you met her,” one Senate reporter said of the contrast between Deupree’s status as a beauty queen and her modest demeanor. “She dresses very conservatively.”
Schwarz, Rogers lure ‘hopheads’ to fundraiser
Whether you’re a fan of the fragrant hops of pale ales or the toasted taste of a thick stout, Rep. Joe Schwarz (R-Mich.) has a fundraiser for you.
Tomorrow night, the freshman legislator, along with his suds-loving fellow Michigander Mike Rogers (R), hosts a “Michigan Microbrew Party.”
Rogers’s press secretary, Matt Marsden, said the two often went out for a beer together when they were in the state Legislature.
“Their friendship goes way back,” he said.
Madsen said it was Schwarz’s idea to “bring a little Michigan flavor to D.C. and give some exposure to two local businesses.”
Tough as it is to find Michigan brews in D.C., the members arranged to ship eight to 10 cases from Bell’s, Dark Horse, Ann Arbor and Arcadia breweries here for the event.
They don’t come cheap, though. At least not for political donors. The event, which has attracted about 40 “hopheads” so far, runs $250 per individual or $1,000 per PAC.