Legal dispute with Mac Collins leads consultant to switch parties

Leland Gregory, a political consultant and former “Saturday Night Live” writer who is suing former Rep. Mac Collins, says his dispute with the Georgia Republican contributed to his becoming a Democrat.

Leland Gregory, a political consultant and former “Saturday Night Live” writer who is suing former Rep. Mac Collins, says his dispute with the Georgia Republican contributed to his becoming a Democrat.

Gregory is suing Collins for $15,000 he says he’s owed for media consulting on Collins’s unsuccessful 2004 campaign for Senate.

In an e-mail over the break, Gregory said he made the “difficult decision” to change political parties “in part because of my dealings with the likes of Mr. Collins.”

Collins is seeking to return to Congress by challenging Rep. Jim Marshall (D) in Georgia’s 3rd District.

As for the lawsuit, which concerns Gregory’s $5,000-per-month retainer for May, June and July 2004, the parties have done little but trade motions since the suit was filed in October.

“Mr. Collins is being very litigious on this simple matter, demanding the suit be dismissed on venue grounds and even seeking attorney’s fees,” said Gregory.

A recent motion by Gregory accuses Collins of a “wholesale failure” to respond to discovery requests within the standard 45-day time frame.

Stefan Passantino, Collins’s attorney, said that’s because “we’ve got a motion to dismiss, which is pending.” Collins’s side says the suit has been filed in the wrong jurisdiction.

Gregory and his attorney, Matthew Reeves, state that the motion “is yet another stubborn delay by defendants in facing the facts regarding honoring defendants’ payment obligations. … Defendants are simply being litigious about a debt they do not wish to pay from a campaign they did not win, and such stubbornness should not give rise to an award of fees.”

But Passantino said Collins’s team knows of no contract or other evidence that Collins still owes Gregory. “Leland Gregory is trying to use Mac Collins’s notoriety and political aspirations for leverage,” he said.

The Collins campaign’s most recent filing showed $302,732 cash on hand. His defunct Senate campaign had $1,175 in the bank.



Rep. Shaw undergoing cancer surgery

Rep. Clay Shaw (R-Fla.), a lung-cancer survivor, will undergo surgery today in Tampa, Fla., to remove another cancerous tumor from his left lung.

In a statement over the recess, Shaw said he’s been taking a drug to control the growth of the tumor, which was discovered in May.

“After the surgery, my doctors and I expect that I will be hospitalized only for a few days,” Shaw said. “Because it was once again caught in its earliest stages, and because it is a non-aggressive tumor, I will have a full and speedy recovery, and will continue a normal lifestyle.

Shaw emphasized that he is “aggressively running for a 14th term” as well as “actively seeking” the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee.

After his first bout with the disease, Shaw, along with Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), formed the 2015 Caucus, which seeks to make cancer a manageable disease by that year.


Cinematic takes on the late session

Callers who dialed the House Republican Cloakroom for a schedule update on the last day of the session, Sunday, Dec. 19, were greeted with the voice of the late, great Bette Davis.

“Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night,” the voicemail said, a legendary quote from the movie “All About Eve.”

And earlier that week, Kevin Madden, spokesman for the majority leader’s office, had his own take on the late, unpredictable session. Madden’s daily e-mail update came complete with a sound file from the cult classic “Office Space,” in which Gary Cole’s passive-aggressive manager tells Ron Livingston’s disgruntled worker: “Uuuum, I’m gong to need you to go ahead and come in tomorrow, so if you could be here around 9, that would be greeeaat, mmm-kay? Oh, oh, and I almost forgot. I’m also going to need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too, OK? We, uh, lost some people this week, and we need to sort of play catch-up. Thanks.”


Press gallery loses a legend

Maurice Johnson, a legendary Washington congressional photographer and the longest-serving director of the Press Photographers Gallery, passed away over the holidays. He was 86 years old.

Johnson was superintendent from 1969 until his retirement in 1998. Before serving in the Capitol, he was a prize-winning photographer for the International News Photos and United Press International services. He also was past president of the White House News Photographer Association.

According to Jeff Kent, director of the Gallery, a memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Feb. 3, at All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase, Md.


Last-minute local shopping for D.C. VIPs

The late-running Senate session apparently put a crimp on at least one member’s holiday shopping.

A Hill spy saw Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) trying on jackets at the Jos. A. Bank store in Penn Quarter on Christmas Eve, under the watchful eye of his wife, Nancy.

A spokeswoman said that Domenici’s family indeed came to Washington for the holidays. Here’s hoping everyone liked their gifts.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales also seemed to find too few shopping days this year. He and his family were seen strolling the mall at Tysons Corner on Dec. 23, with nary a security guard in sight.


Ballance heads to prison

Former Rep. Frank Ballance (D-N.C.) began a four-year federal prison term Friday, but not before he was feted last Wednesday by about 80 supporters in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., according to the Henderson Daily Dispatch.

The rally was one of several in the run-up to the beginning of Ballance’s sentence, the largest of which drew hundreds of people, including activist and comedian Dick Gregory.

After resigning from Congress in June 2004 for health reasons, Ballance was convicted of diverting $100,000 in state funds meant for his anti-drug foundation to his family and friends.

“People are trying to make a conspiracy out of this,” Ballance told the paper, but “it’s just a lie.”

His supporters dipped their fingers in orange paint last week to symbolize “injustice in the court system.”

The paper’s editorial page cited an e-mail it received that said Ballance’s “persecution … has little to do with any wrongdoing on his part, but instead with keeping progressive and influential blacks in their place.”

The paper wasn’t buying it, however, opining that “a four-year prison sentence for fleecing the public of $100,000 seems terribly light; certainly not a ‘persecution.’”

For months, the National Republican Congressional Committee has urged the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to refund or redirect money it still holds from Ballance.

“It’s hypocritical of them to [make ethics an issue in 2006] when they’re sitting on $29,500 from Frank Ballance,” said NRCC spokesman Ed Patru.


Sen. Schumer’s office takes  its turn as Clement Clarke Moore

Even a two-week recess can’t dampen our sense of fairness.

Just before the break, Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-Texas) office sent us a judicial riff on “’Twas the Night before Christmas,” which we reprinted.

Shortly afterward, Sen. Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) office came up with its own version.

Better late than never, here ’tis:

’Twas a month after Miers, when all through the land,

Went a plague of amnesia ’bout how she was canned.

Now, Cornyn! Now, Sessions! Now Kyl and Frist!

Not one had some recall of how she was dissed.

They blathered and brayed about up-or-down votes.

They acted dismayed and gave virulent quotes.

They forgot how their own was battered and fried,

How an up-or-down vote on her was denied.

With her conservative views not patently clear,

They allowed a campaign of cynical smear.

On Alito, they say, he deserves confirmation,

But don’t wait for the hearings, just accept coronation.

Don’t ask if his views on the law are too cramped,

This substitute nom must be rubber-stamped.

So “advice and consent” gets thrown out the door,

When there’s peace to be made with the right wing’s hard core.