D.C. lobbyist advances on 'American Idol'

Is the next Ruben Studdard in our midst? Rod Snyder, a 24-year-old Washington lobbyist for the agriculture trade association CropLife America, is among an estimated 190 contestants on the blockbuster reality show “American Idol” to advance to Hollywood for the next round of competition.
Is the next Ruben Studdard in our midst? Rod Snyder, a 24-year-old Washington lobbyist for the agriculture trade association CropLife America, is among an estimated 190 contestants on the blockbuster reality show “American Idol” to advance to Hollywood for the next round of competition.
courtesy of rod snyder
Contestant Rod Snyder

About 100,000 hopefuls tried out nationwide, including 21,000 at the D.C. Convention Center last August.

Snyder was also one of five local contestants selected to have a special feature segment filmed about their daily lives. “They shot a lot of footage on me,” Snyder said yesterday, “mostly by the Capitol as I was going up to lobby.”

Which made for a delicate situation at work. “I hadn’t told my trade association that I was going to try out,” he said. “They wanted to come into the office with a film crew and I had to explain where I’d been the last two days.”

Last night’s season premiere aired after The Hill went to press, and not even Snyder knew if his segment would make the final edit, but he sounded optimistic. On Feb. 8, “Idol” will begin running footage of the contestants’ Hollywood auditions.

Snyder grew up in a political family in Jefferson County and ran for the West Virginia House of Delegates as a Democrat last year at age 23. He still lives in the state, making the four-hour round trip commute each day to his job in Washington.

While Snyder’s career has been focused on politics, music is something he’s always done on the side. He recorded a demo album of contemporary Christian music in 2001 that sold “about 500 copies” and sang one of his original songs on the floor of the West Virginia Senate. 


Requests for inauguration tickets swamp Hill offices

Members of Congress representing nearby districts in Maryland and Virginia have spent the final week leading up to tomorrow’s inauguration making callbacks to hundreds of lucky constituents.

“We have received well over 2,000 requests for tickets to the swearing-in,” said Dan Scand-ling, press secretary for Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.). “Last week, we had to call people and say we don’t have them, and now we are making callbacks and saying we actually do have tickets for you.”

Scandling said Wolf’s office was initially given the same number of tickets as other House offices — 177 standing-room-only tickets and 20 seated ones. However, Wolf’s office managed to acquire 500 additional tickets from the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and an extra 300 from other House members, mostly from the West.

“Democrats have called us too,” Scandling said. “For us it’s a proximity issue.” Wolf’s 10th District includes Loudoun, Prince William and Fairfax counties.

A spokesman for Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said his office had received more than 700 ticket requests. “Only in the last week have we been able to call some people back and let them know they will have tickets,” said press secretary Austin Durrer.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has also been bombarded with ticket requests. “We have been forced to have a lottery because we have gotten so many requests we couldn’t accommodate them all,” said press secretary Marilyn Campbell.

Sen. George Allen’s (R-Va.) office, which originally received more than 300 tickets, has also been inundated. “According to our last tally, we had gotten over 1,800 calls requesting some 4,000 tickets,” said David Snepp, Allen’s press secretary.


Norton: ‘Over the top’ inauguration security

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) is worried that freedom is being sacrificed in the name of security in the nation’s capital this week.

“I’m curious to see whether it will look more like a military exercise than a national celebration,” she said of tomorrow’s inauguration.

Speaking to reporters at the National Press Club, Norton addressed what she called the “ad hoc approaches to security” practiced by the federal government.

“They’re still learning” how to strike a balance in a post-Sept. 11 world, she said. “We assume a certain amount of risk in an open society. We’re sending a message that we can protect you no matter what, and that is the wrong message.”

She also reiterated her objection to the administration’s spending regional homeland security dollars to fund the inauguration instead of a special appropriation, as in years past.


Half of Medal of Honor recipients in town

Seventy-one of the 129 living recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor are spending Inaugural week in Washington as guests of the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

The 71 veterans attended a reception at Morton’s restaurant on Connecticut Avenue on Monday night and will have lunch with the Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Wednesday, according to Gary Littrell, president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

The group was honored at Morton’s because Mike Donlon, regional vice president of the steakhouse chain, is the nephew of Roger Donlon, the first medal recipient of the Vietnam War.

They’ll also have front-row seats for the swearing-in and inaugural parade and will attend the Veterans Ball tomorrow night. Most of the recipients of the nation’s highest military honor remain humble about their heroic deeds. Brian Thacker, a Vietnam-era recipient and D.C. native, said, “I’ll let you in on a little secret. It wasn’t just them [who displayed heroism]. And they’ll be pretty quick to tell you that.”


McConnell’s 40 years at WTOP

If Dave McConnell were a member of Congress, he would outrank all but 10 senators and 15 House members in seniority.

McConnell, who started covering Congress for WTOP Radio in 1977, celebrates his 40th anniversary with WTOP today. He even predates WTOP’s becoming an all-news station in 1969 and has worked with such broadcast industry stars as Sam Donaldson, Connie Chung and Arthur Godfrey.

McConnell, who’s secretive about his age but admits he’s “able to collect Social Security,” has become the voice of Capitol Hill for many Washingtonians. His “Today on the Hill” reports are broadcast throughout the morning and afternoon drive time.

A native of Elizabeth, N.J., McConnell moved with his family to Washington as a child and later attended DeMatha High School and the University of Maryland.

His most memorable story? “Without a doubt, it was 9-11,” he said yesterday. “The absolute chaos and uncertainty, to see people calmly leaving their offices but realizing what a horrible thing had happened and not knowing what else would happen.”


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