Menendez: Turn the tables on journos

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) would like to ask reporters some questions. So much so that he’d be willing to trade jobs with them for a day. Speaking to journalists last week in his House office, he said he’d love to sponsor a resolution that would let congressional reporters legislate for a day, while members chased them around to get the scoop.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) would like to ask reporters some questions. So much so that he’d be willing to trade jobs with them for a day.

Speaking to journalists last week in his House office, he said he’d love to sponsor a resolution that would let congressional reporters legislate for a day, while members chased them around to get the scoop.

“You could introduce legislation, try to get it passed,” he enticingly offered the reporters assembled. “Of course, it wouldn’t count.”

Such job-switching is a favorite gimmick of Menendez’s. As mayor of Union City, he used to swap with city employees each year. “I thought I could do sanitation,” he said, until he realized how heavy the trash cans were.

Menendez spokesman Matt Miller confirmed that an actual resolution is not pending right now; it’s just an idea of his at this point. But it’s an idea that the seventh-term congressman clearly relishes.

Asked if he’s looking for a Republican cosponsor, he said, “Sure, I’d like to get a Republican. I think Tom DeLay would like to ask all of you a few questions.”

More trouble for the ‘mayor’ of the Hill?

Three radio show hosts in West Virginia have accused House Administration Committee Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) of attempting to intimidate them after they read news accounts on air that cast Ney in an unfavorable light.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported this weekend that George Kellas, Dave Blomquist and John Blackmore of WKKX in Wheeling, W.Va., which reaches Ney’s Ohio district, said Ney’s attorney called the station to say that “he was reviewing tapes of their broadcasts, and Ney himself told a mutual friend he would investigate the hosts’ families and personal lives.”

The three had recently read media reports on air regarding Ney’s relationship with disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Denying that there was any attempt to intimidate, Ney spokesman Brian Walsh told the paper, “The congressman doesn’t spend a minute of his time worrying about this station and its four listeners.”

Reached yesterday, his tune had not changed. “This is outrageous and not even worth responding to,” he said.

Deep Mouth? It’s not me, says Livingstone

He’s flattered by the suggestion that he’s the Washington Palm restaurant’s most loyal customer, but Dr. Neil Livingstone says he has to decline the honor of being dubbed “Deep Mouth.”
“I eat there a lot, but not that much,” the CEO and co-chairman of the Washington crisis management firm, GlobalOptions Inc., said yesterday after an anonymous emailer identified him as the mystery person who dined at the Palm 88 times over 57 days during a recent promotion for the restaurant’s frequent dining program, as reported in this space last week.

Livingstone said it would have been impossible for him to have eaten that many meals at the Palm since he was out of the country during most of the 57-day period and he rarely eats dinner there.

Nevertheless, he said, the Palm is his favorite restaurant — “I’m  probably there 15 times every month” — and has been ever since he the mid-1970s because many of his foreign clients wanted to have a good steak.

As a matter of fact, Livingstone said he ate there yesterday with a client from Zug, Switzerland, who called last week and said he wanted to eat at the Palm because “I want those soft-shell crabs they serve.”

Crosswords relieve clerk during debate downtime

During periods of extended debate in the House, some members and staff can be seen surreptitiously typing on their BlackBerrys or perusing unrelated documents. Reading Clerk Paul Hays has another way of killing time — crosswords.

Hays has worked for the House since 1966 and has been a reading clerk since 1988. He is charged with reading the text of bills and resolutions when necessary and tracking textual changes made to legislation on the floor.

When he’s not called on to perform his official duties, however, he can usually be seen buzzing away at another crossword. While House members ferociously debated Amtrak funding last week, Hays worked away at not one but two puzzles. Wielding a mechanical pencil, Hays blazes through dozens of crosswords he keeps in a drawer in the Speaker’s rostrum.

Hays — who was not made available for comment by the House Clerk’s office — is not new to word puzzles. Over the course of The Hill’s weekly crossword contest, Hays frequently submitted completed crosswords. On at least three occasions over the last six months of the “HillWord” contest — which ended in January 2004 — Hays won a $25 gift certificate to The Trover Shop.

Pricey drinks

Would you spend $650 for a single glass of cognac to impress a friend or client?

Maybe not, but that’s what several people have done recently at the bar at the Mandarin Oriental’s CityZen Restaurant.

The astronomical price will get you a glass of one of three special Remy Martin Cognacs that are so special they have their own names — Fire, Ice and Earth.

One young woman recently treated her boyfriend to a glass of the costly drink, thought to be the most expensive in Washington, after he asked her to marry him.

Wonder what they’ll serve at the wedding reception.

Abercrombie marks 67th birthday with bench press

In addition to being the first member to vote when the House calls the roll, Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) added another first last week as he celebrated his 67th birthday.

The stocky Abercrombie, who is an avid weightlifter, marked his birthday by bench-pressing 268 pounds in the House gym.

“My goal was to press 200 pounds more than my age, and I beat my goal by a full pound,” Abercrombie said in a press release he asserted was necessary to dispel rumors that he plans to compete in the Olympics.

Abercrombie’s feat was witnessed by three Democratic colleagues from Massachusetts: Martin Meehan, Richard Neal and Stephen Lynch.

Will money trail help or hurt court chances?

Among those names on the speculative “short list” of possible Supreme Court nominees, the lion’s share are currently serving on the federal bench or elsewhere in the federal government. Which means, regrettably for us, that they don’t often donate to political campaigns.

Not so with Larry Thompson, however. The former deputy attorney general in President Bush’s first term took time to serve as a Brookings Institution fellow and teach at the University of Georgia School of Law before taking his current job as general counsel at Pepsico. Thompson was the administration’s highest-ranking black law-enforcement official when he stepped down. He also advised Justice Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings in 1991.

And he’s left a long record of political donations. In the plus column, Thompson gave $1,000 to Bush’s campaign committee in 1999, $2,000 to the Bush-Cheney reelection effort in 2004 and another $1,000 to the Bush-Cheney ’04 Compliance Committee late last year. He also donated $3,550 to the Georgia Republican Party between 1998 and 2004.

In the minus column, he also gave $250 to that old Bush nemesis Steve Forbes in 1999 and $400 in 2001 to that old nemesis of Georgia Republicans, former Sen. Max Cleland (D).

If Bush does nominate Thompson, he should expect vocal support from four Republican senators to whom he’s donated: Johnny Isakson of Georgia ($1,000 in 1999 and another $1,000 in 2004); Kit Bond of Missouri ($1,000 in 1998); Jeff Sessions of Alabama ($250 in 2001); and Richard Lugar of Indiana ($500 last year). Of the four, however, only Sessions is on the Judiciary Committee.