By Albert Eisele - 06/07/05 12:00 AM EDT
Even though he’s no longer in Congress, ex-Rep. Max Sandlin (D-Texas) is still able to get his legislation introduced.
After all, he’s got someone on the inside: Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D-S.D.), with whom he’s been romantically linked for nearly two years.
When he was a member, Sand-lin was among the Democrats’ strongest voices on medical malpractice. Opposing Republican plans to cap damage awards in lawsuits, he instead favored insurance reform and tax breaks. His Medical Malpractice Relief Act of 2004, introduced last April, would have allowed tax credits for “qualified expenditures for professional malpractice insurance.”
Last month, what should Herseth introduce but the Medical Malpractice Relief Act of 2005? Over four pages, the two bills are virtually identical, save their effective dates and a one-paragraph subsection in the Sandlin bill that has been excised.
A Herseth spokesman did not return multiple phone calls and an e-mail seeking comment.
The Hill could not confirm whether Herseth and Sandlin are still in a relationship at this time.
Herseth and Sandlin met during Herseth’s unsuccessful run for Congress in 2002, when Sandlin was appointed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to serve as her campaign mentor.
They became an item the following year. When the seat was vacated in 2004 after then-Rep. Bill Janklow’s (R) manslaughter conviction, Sandlin, who is 19 years Herseth’s senior, again assisted in her campaign.
Herseth successfully defended her new seat last November, but Sandlin lost his, a victim of the Republican redistricting plan in Texas.
Nader honors trial lawyers with museum
Looks as if consumer advocate and erstwhile presidential candidate Ralph Nader has a new vocation: museum director.
For some time, Nader has been trying to establish a tort law museum in his tiny hometown of Winsted, Conn.
Last week, the Hartford Courant reported that a Philadelphia architecture firm is “putting final touches on plans for the museum” and Nader hopes to break ground by fall.
The American Museum of Tort Law would occupy an old mill factory owned by a Nader family trust. “Historically, it’s a nice context because that’s where so many workers got injured, in factories around the country,” Nader told the Courant, adding that tort law is “one of the great pillars of our democracy.”
So far, $2 million has been raised, about half of what is needed. Not surprisingly, much of the funding is coming from trial lawyers.
Carlton Carl, a spokesman for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA), told The Hill, “ATLA is not involved, although I understand that some of our members individually may have contributed to the effort.”
A spokeswoman for the Connecticut Bar Association said it is “not involved in the project at all.”
Maryland links is new secret playground for D.C. power elite
Maybe it’s the golf course itself, designed by Hall of Famer Nick Price. The dining facility that’s “like a gourmet restaurant” or the help-yourself coolers stocked with beverages along the course. The teaching pro ranked in the top 100 nationwide by Golf magazine. Or the old-school caddie program.
Whatever it is, something is drawing D.C.’s A-list of lobbyists, attorneys and other VIPs to join the 7-year-old Members Club at Four Streams in bucolic, remote Beallsville, Md.
Among them are lobbyist Frank Fahrenkopf of the American Gaming Association, Democratic consultant Stan Brand, sports agent David Falk and Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.
Many more are lining up to be their guests. “Members of Congress are here as guests quite a bit,” said general manager Kevin Taylor. Reps. Jim McCrery (R-La.) and Chris Cox (R-Calif.) have recently played, and Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) has an event coming up there.
“This is where rich guys go to talk trash with one another,” Washington Post sports columnist and member Mike Wilbon told the Washington Golf Monthly. “They can let their hair down here in a way you’d never see in the outside world.”
That’s because the $65,000 membership fee, plus about $500 per month in dues, buys a great deal of privacy and discretion. Even the sign at the gate is barely visible.
“Guys come out here and they’re not bothered,” said Taylor.
“It’s the best-kept secret in Washington,” Brand said. He tells a story about Michael Jordan shopping around the area for a club membership. Everywhere else he encountered autograph seekers, Brand said, but at Four Streams “no one even said hello to him.” Jordan signed up shortly thereafter.
Member Jim Pitts of the Navigators lobbying and consulting firm said unlike the storied Congressional Country Club, which hosts the Booz Allen Classic this week, Four Streams has no wait list to join and it costs $35-40,000 less.
Currently there are only 215 members. The membership, which bought the club two years ago, wants to add 100 more and then cap it, maintaining its status as one of the most exclusive pieces of real estate around, populated by the most exclusive people.
Said one member source of Steve Bosdosh, the teaching pro: “His list of clients is unbelievable.”
Even at $175 an hour, Bosdosh said he has “several hundred” clients, including many nonmembers.
So how are the games of D.C.’s VIPs? Varied, Bosdosh said. But what they all share is that “they’re all very successful in their businesses, so they apply that to their games. If you tell them ‘Here’s how you need to practice,’ they listen and they get better.”
Rescuing DeLay from the Wolf
Hundreds of Hill staffers, whether they wanted one or not, were offered Tom DeLay T-shirts as they went in and out of the Capitol South Metro stop last Thursday. And all because Dick Wolf unleashed the wrath of the vast right-wing conspiracy.
Wolf, the producer of the monumentally successful “Law & Order” television franchise on NBC, angered conservatives in a recent episode of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” in which a character connected House Majority Leader DeLay (R-Texas) with the shooting death of a federal judge by saying, “Maybe we should put out an APB for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt.”
In response, the Free Enterprise Fund, a group that says it “promotes pro-growth economic policies consistent with the principles of free markets and limited government,” printed up hundreds of T-shirts with DeLay’s likeness on the front and the phrase “Who’s Afraid of Dick Wolf?” on the back.
“The implications of this incident go well beyond the culture wars,” Free Enterprise Fund Vice President Lawrence Hunter said. “NBC has now joined a witch hunt to discredit Tom DeLay and the agenda he represents that already includes partisan prosecutors and judges, dozens of liberal advocacy groups and much of the news media.”
DeLay spokesman Dan Allen said, “The congressman was attacked on a prime time TV show, and the level of support he's received shows just how out of step his attackers are.”
Gannon figures in correspondents’ platforms
Elections for the president and executive board of the White House Correspondents Association will be held tomorrow, and the candidates are busy hitting the hustings.
Candidate statements sent to association members with their ballots reveal that one of the top issues in the campaign, not surprisingly, is who gets to learn the secret handshake, so to speak. The White House and the association alike were embarrassed earlier this year when White House reporter and former male prostitute Jeff Gannon was, er, exposed.
“Now, of course, the issue of ‘who is a journalist’ and who gets credentials is more important than ever,” writes Connie Lawn of Audio Video News. “I support the present policy of the widest possible inclusion, unless the applicant is a security risk.”
ABC News’ Ann Compton agrees: “I support a broad definition of White House journalist, including bloggers and columnists.”
But Dick Keil of Bloomberg writes that the White House needs “to have tougher standards for admission to the briefing room in order to avoid another Jeff Gannon situation.”
Nearly all the candidates also promise strict oversight of the pressroom renovations currently taking place and to push for more access to the president and senior advisers, including more on-the-record briefings and press conferences.
Compton adds that she’d like to “see great entertainment at a better price” at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
Vote early, vote often.