Chocola wears Congress's green jacket

Golf Digest has finally answered a question that’s vexed the congressional-lobbying complex for years: Who’s the best golfer in Congress?

Golf Digest has finally answered a question that’s vexed the congressional-lobbying complex for years: Who’s the best golfer in Congress?

Turns out it’s Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind.). The second-term lawmaker sports a tidy 0.5 handicap. (Simply defined, a player’s handicap reveals how many strokes he’s expected to shoot over par in a round.)

Chocola says modestly, “I play boring golf. I don’t hit it far, but I hit it straight. I just plod along.”

He may soon face some pressure from Rep. Mark Udall (Colo.), the top Democrat, who carries a 1.8 handicap.

Among senators, John Ensign (R-Nev.) takes top honors, with a 6.5, while Joe Biden (Del.) is the best Democrat at 7.4.

Other notable House members: California Democrat Joe Baca (2.2), who’s made three holes-in-one; New Jersey Republican Mike Ferguson (4.3), who plays at the Baltusrol course in New Jersey that just hosted the PGA Championship; Ohio Republican John Boehner (4.8), who used to play left-handed and still putts that way; and Tennessee Republican Zach Wamp (4.9), who started the House Fitness Caucus with Udall.

But even Chocola is eclipsed by the best overall D.C. golfer, lobbyist Chris Lamond of the Federalist Group, who boasts a plus-0.7 handicap.

The top political woman is GOP pollster Linda DiVall, with a 2.1 handicap.

President Bush checks in with a 15, which puts him even with Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.). Supreme Court nominee John Roberts bests him with a 14.5.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who only recently took up the game, estimates his at 47.

The best quote, however, goes to Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas), who says, “Congress would be better served if we played more rather than less.”


Rep. Katherine Harris, legend of the road

Chevy Suburban? Lincoln Town Car? Not for Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.), the onetime thorn in Democrats’ side and current candidate for Senate.

These days, Harris gets around in a BMW 645ci convertible, an enviable ride.

Last Thursday, we spotted the sleek, silver machine in the members’ parking lot, complete with Florida plates and a “Harris for Senate” bumper sticker.

The 4.4-liter, six-speed V-8 delivers 325 horsepower and does zero to 60 in 5.5 seconds.

On BMW’s website, the homepage for the 6-Series entices thusly: “Live vicariously through no one — Legend of the road. Heir to a six-decade tradition of refining luxury, perfecting performance. Commanding style. Unmatched precision. Pure passion. The 6. The ultimate reward.”

Of course, such luxury doesn’t come cheap. The base price is about $77,000, according to online car-pricing sites.

Shouldn’t be a problem for Harris. Late last month, nearly three months late, she filed her 2004 financial disclosure, which shows she owns a Sarasota building worth $1 million to $5 million and has $1 million to $5 million in a Northern Trust bank account. In February 2004, she sold stock in BHG Inc. for $5 million to $25 million. Her husband, Anders Ebbeson, owns a company called Intercon Marketing Inc. valued at $5 million to $25 million.

Harris’s office would not comment.


Passenger: Shalala bumped me

Two Washington women claim they were bumped from their flight by former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala after attending the Florida State-Miami football game in Tallahassee last weekend.

Tammy Gordon, who worked on the Gore campaign and other Democratic campaigns in Florida for six years, said she and a friend arrived at the Tallahassee airport for a US Airways flight to Charlotte, which would then connect to Reagan.

Gordon said they arrived at 11:15 for an 11:42 flight at the “really small” airport. The gate agent told them they were “too late” and would have to fly standby.

That’s when Shalala, who is now the president of the University of Miami, arrived at the gate with T.K. Wetherell, the former Speaker of the Florida House and the president of Florida State, and his wife.

“They ticketed [Shalala’s party] right in front of us,” Gordon said. “It was total VIP treatment. We got left behind.”

As there were no more flights out, Gordon rented a car and drove to Jacksonville to catch a flight there.

A Miami spokeswoman said Shalala “had a confirmed seat” but the flight was overbooked and US Airways was offering free future travel for those who agreed to give up their seats.

A spokeswoman for the airline confirmed that the flight was oversold but said Gordon’s group did not check in on time. Shalala, who had a ticket but not a seat assignment, “was one of the people on the oversale list.”

“Certainly VIPs are not given any special treatment,” she said.

Gordon isn’t convinced. “Can I seriously document it? No. … [But] I’ve been flying out of Tallahassee for 15 years, and this has never happened.”


The Tour de Freedom for Lance next year?

Last week on the House floor, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) added his voice to the chorus of defenders of Lance Armstrong against doping allegations, taking time to hit that favorite punching bag of House Republicans, the French.

“Mr. Speaker, the news reports: 80-year-old woman gives birth to 300-pound baby; bat child found in Utah cave; Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs,” began Poe, who said he stands with Armstrong “in the face of this mindless, babbling slander.”

Then he got to the point: “A newspaper pretends to have proof that in 1999, six years ago no less, Lance Armstrong used a performance-enhancing drug. What a shock, the newspaper is a French one.

“Cycling in France is like baseball or football is in the United States, and they cannot comprehend how an American, a Texan no less, could dominate their sport.

Then, Poe twisted the knife: “Seven Tour de France crowns and a million dumbfounded French reporters later, what you get is this situation today. We have a tremendous athlete falling victim to the accusations of reporters with an obvious case of sour grapes and elitist European snobbery.

“If this latest so-called proof is the best the French can do, I suggest they do what they do best: throw up their hands and surrender.”


Members past and present are opening their homes

Tim Roemer (D-Ind.), the former Indiana congressman and member of the Sept. 11 commission, is among the many folks on high ground who are opening their homes to family, friends and even strangers affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Roemer, who continues to be critical of homeland-security and disaster-preparedness efforts, has taken in some of his nieces and nephews from Louisiana.

Roemer is the son-in-law of former Sen. Bennett Johnston (D-La.), who served from 1972 to 1997.

In related news, the Dallas Morning News reported last week that Rep. Chet Edwards (D) has opened his home in Waco, Texas, to a family from Algiers, La., whom he didn’t previously know. His wife suggested that they lend their home because the Edwards family spends the school year in Washington.

After Johnnie Marchand and her two children made their way to Waco after the storm, they met Edwards at the Seventh and James Baptist Church, whereupon he offered his home.

The Dallas paper reports that Edwards will stay with friends if he returns to Texas on weekends.


New boat named for Rep. Oberstar survives Hurricane Katrina

On Aug. 16, Rep. Jim Oberstar, (D-Minn.), was attending a ceremony in Louisiana as the newest towboat on the Mississippi River was named after him.

Not quite two weeks later, Hurricane Katrina plowed into the state. Fortunately, the boat was upriver at the time and escaped unscathed.

The M/V James L. Oberstar is an 85-feet-long, 30-feet-wide, 331-ton vessel used to push two double-hull tank barges along the river.

Blessey Marine Inc., which owns the boat, has previously named its ships after family members and employees. But, according to the company, it wanted to acknowledge Oberstar’s “leading voice on legislative matters impacting the preservation of the Mississippi River and its tributaries and the economic viability of the nation’s inland waterway business.

Oberstar said last month, “To have a vessel named after me that will traverse the Mississ-ippi River and contribute to the viability of the nation’s economy is a special acknowledgement.”