Las Vegas: Junket or 'study trip'

It was all on the up and up, but still, the “study trip” that 21 House and Senate senior staffers took to the gambling and entertainment mecca of Las Vegas during the Presidents’ Day recess has set envious tongues wagging on Capitol Hill.

It was all on the up and up, but still, the “study trip” that 21 House and Senate senior staffers took to the gambling and entertainment mecca of Las Vegas during the Presidents’ Day recess has set envious tongues wagging on Capitol Hill.

The trip was sponsored and paid for by the Congressional Economic Leadership Institute (CELI), a bipartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 1987 to focus on economic competitiveness issues. And nothing, it seems, is more competitive than the quest for gaming and tourism dollars in Las Vegas and other U.S. cities.

The lucky staffers spent three nights at the Bellagio Hotel and visited Caesar’s Palace, Harrah’s and the MGM Mirage, where they were given behind-the-scenes tours and briefings on such issues as Internet gambling, betting on college sports, Indian gambling, casino security and infrastructures, problem gamblers and job training programs for casino and hotel employees.

“Gaming is one of the major economic competitive issues going on around the country,” David Klaus, CELI’s president and CEO, said yesterday.

“The focus of our trip was to help staffers whose members, generally speaking, have gaming in and around their jurisdictions, or sit on committees with potential impact on gaming issues,” he said, noting that this is the fourth such trip to Las Vegas.

“One of the things I found last year was that the typical reaction of the staffers is, ‘Boy, I didn’t know that; this is different from what I thought.’”

Klaus, whose organization sponsors about a half-dozen foreign and domestic trips for members and senior staffers every year and is funded by some 30 corporate sponsors, declined to identify any of the staffers on the Las Vegas trip.

But sources said they included Dan Flynn, deputy chief of staff to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas); Rohit Kumar, policy adviser and counsel to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.); Michael Robinson, legislative director for Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), as well as staffers for Reps. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), William Clay (D-Mo.) and the House sergeant at arms’ office.
According to Brett Hale, senior vice president of the American Gaming Association, who accompanied the CELI delegation, 48 states have some form of legal gambling.

Senate panel to hold ’roids hearing, too

The Major League Baseball players who travel to Washington next week may want to get used to it — there’s a chance they’ll be back again.

A spokeswoman for the Senate Commerce Committee confirmed yesterday that the panel does “expect to hold a hearing” on steroids later this year, although a date and a witness list have not yet been determined.

As reported by the Baltimore Sun yesterday, the House Government Reform Committee will subpoena up to seven current and former players to appear next Thursday, if they do not agree to appear voluntarily, to testify on steroid use.

The star witness will be former slugger and admitted steroid user Jose Canseco, who in a new book accuses many current players of juicing.

Acording to The Sun, other witnesses could include Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees, 500-plus home-run hitters Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmiero of the Baltimore Orioles, Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox, World Series Champion Curt Schilling of the Boston Red Sox and Mark McGwire, the retired former single-season home-run record holder.

Barry Bonds, the current single-season home-run record holder and long suspected of being a steroid user in the minds of some fans, is not on the witness list.

The players will have to fly to Washington for the day from their various spring-training locales in Florida and Arizona.

A Government Reform Committee release yesterday states that the witness list has been expanded to include medical experts and family members of steroid users.

Carole King: She feels the earth move …

Singer-songwriter Carole King appeared with Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) yesterday on the Cannon Terrace to help introduce the Rockies Prosperity Act.

Despite the cold, Shays was beaming as he warmly greeting King with a peck on the cheek. “I know she made money off of me because the first album I ever bought was ‘Tapestry,’” he said, referring to King’s monumentally successful 1971 release.

King promised to write a song for the bill, which would designate more than 18 million acres, affect water policy and, according to a “Dear Colleague” letter sent last week, save taxpayers $245 million over 10 years. Similar bills have been introduced since 1991 and have attracted as many as 185 co-sponsors. So far, the new bill has 32 co-sponsors, including three Republicans.
“I live in Idaho and have lived there for 28 years,” King told The Hill. “I realized that these lands were being destroyed — at taxpayers’ expense.”

But why leave it to two members from the New York metro area to sponsor a bill that would affect land 2,000 miles away? “None of my [members of Congress] would introduce it,” said King.

Rep. Moran to weigh in for charity

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) will succumb to the unforgiving tale of the tape next Saturday (or is it the tale of the scale?).

That’s when the Alexandria chapter of the Red Cross holds its first annual “Rhapsody in Red” fundraising gala and Moran steps back on the scale to find out how many pounds he’s taken off since January. Moran has pledged $50 to the Red Cross for each pound he sheds during the two months.

Weighing in at the Old Town Alexandria Sport & Health Club on Jan. 24, Moran checked in at 255 pounds. He had hoped to drop 30 of those.
Tuesday night, Moran told The Hill he’s only about halfway there with 10 days to go. “I’m starting to get serious,” he said, running and doing Marine squat thrusts in the steam room, as well as passing up candy and popcorn at appropriations hearings.

He added that such pledges are becoming harder to fulfill with age. “When I was younger, when I was mayor, I was Alexandria’s renewable resource. ... I used to run 10 miles and lose 10 pounds. Now I run 10 miles and I can’t move.”

In addition to Sport & Health, Moran is also a member at the ritzy Sports Club/LA at the Ritz-Carlton downtown.

The $175-per-person ball will take place at the historic terminal of National Airport. The 1930s-theme includes models in vintage Red Cross uniforms and the big-band stylings of Peaches O’Dell and Her Orchestra.

Kolbe returns, Edwards next up at Harvard

Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) turned professor this week, spending Monday and Tuesday as a visiting fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government.

Kolbe told The Hill he taught a class on appropriators versus authorizers and participated in an immigration forum with former Immigration and Naturalization Service head Doris Meisner. He also joined students from Arizona for breakfast and met with Young Republicans from Harvard University and Harvard Law School.

Next month, former Sen. and vice-presidential nominee John Edwards (D-N.C.) and former Reagan White House aide Michael Deaver also will take turns as visiting fellows.

Edwards may want to compare notes with Mary Beth Cahill, the former top aide to Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) who managed the Kerry-Edwards campaign last fall. She is one of seven resident fellows who will spend the spring semester at the institute.

She’ll be joined by former Rep. Brad Carson (D-Okla.); Ron Fournier, chief political writer for The Associated Press’s Washington bureau; Vicki Huddleston, former U.S. ambassador to Mali; Tom Newcomb, former anti-terrorism expert on the National Security Council; Roger Simon, political editor of U.S. News and World Report; and Maggie Williams, former chief of staff to then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Should be plenty of opportunity for bipartisan political discourse.

Memorabilia show in Va.

Are some of those old buttons, badges, baubles and banners from past political campaigns cluttering up your attic or basement?

Then you might want to bring them to the sixth annual show and sale of political memorabilia at the Holiday Inn Tysons Corner in McLean, Va., on Saturday and maybe even cash in on them, as the American Political Item Collectors (APIC) will have an appraiser on hand to evaluate them and auction them off.

The event runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $3 but only $2 for those with a congressional or college ID.

 

 

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