Gossip: In The Know

Al Franken bunks with AEI’s Norm Ornstein

Senate candidate Al Franken (D-Minn.) stayed with American Enterprise Institute’s resident scholar Norm Ornstein last week for two nights as “Franken immersed himself in the Senate,” Ornstein told ITK Tuesday.

Franken stayed in one of Ornstein’s guest bedrooms; Ornstein charged him nothing for the two-night stay.
“He is my friend who stayed with me as a guest,” Ornstein explained.

{mosads}Franken did not have his meals cooked for him in the Ornstein household. “I did not cook for him,” Ornstein said. “Nobody in the house did.”

Asked whether Franken had a comfortable stay in his home, Ornstein replied, “I have no reason to believe he wasn’t [comfortable].”

Ornstein has been a guest on Franken’s radio show dating back to 2005. In addition, a fictionalized version of Ornstein is written into Franken’s satirical novel, Why Not Me?

Ornstein lives in the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington.

A kissing contest — all in the name of cancer
The Wellness Community, an organization that supports people battling cancer, successfully broke the Guinness World Record for most kisses in a minute this Valentine’s Day.

The record was broken at a dinner party. Judges included former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and Animal Planet chief oceanographic correspondent Philippe Cousteau Jr. (the grandson of the famed Jacques Cousteau).
Deborah Gist, a Capitol Hill resident, schemed up the idea of a kissing contest after her uncle died of pancreatic cancer.

To break the record, 100 separate people had to plant their lips on Gist’s face within 60 seconds. At one point things got overwhelming and the party had to form two lines for both of Gist’s cheeks. She had to get up on a stool to deal with the incoming smooches.

Guinness rules require that at least three judges of standing in the community be on hand to certify that the record was broken. The event raised $20,000 for the Wellness Community.

Burris steering clear of national media
Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) is allegedly taking a play from President Obama’s supposed Senate playbook, talking in-depth only to Illinois media, ITK has learned.

Darrel Thompson, on loan from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office, is acting as Burris’s spokesman — that is, until Thompson finds him a permanent replacement.

Last week Burris, 71, was walking through the Capitol, making his way from the Rotunda to the Senate, as Thompson steered Burris clear of reporters, which has become the senator’s modus operandi toward the media ever since coming to Washington.

Only after Thompson was confronted on the matter did he agree to allow The Hill to ask a single question, but only after explaining that he had been guiding Burris to the bathroom. Aside from this one allowable question, Burris would only be doing Illinois press.

“I had to go to the bathroom,” Burris confirmed after being brought back for a question.

Burris, however, may have other reasons for avoiding the national media.

Last weekend he released a sworn affidavit, first reported in the Chicago Sun-Times, saying that before former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) appointed him to the Senate, Burris was asked by Blagojevich’s brother for fundraising help, to which the senator declined. Burris failed to mention that before a special Illinois state House impeachment panel last month. State GOP leaders say they want the new senator investigated for perjury.

So much for avoiding the national media. Burris could be spotted on national TV as well as the front pages of the country’s major newspapers all weekend long.  


Shuler, in holiday mood, licks ice cream in the lobby
Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), like many lawmakers, was ready to get out of town after the last vote before the recess.

During the vote on the stimulus legislation, out he came into the Speaker’s Lobby with an unwrapped ice cream Drumstick — a no-no in the Speaker’s Lobby, where, even for lawmakers, food, drink, cigarettes and cigars are not permitted.

While Shuler gets points for the potential deliciousness of his snack, he also receives a demerit for breaking the rules.

Rep. Kirk irked by colleagues’ alleged insensitivity
Last Thursday afternoon, lawmakers such as Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) were debating a resolution honoring the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) argued that the Green Bay Packers have more championships. Doyle, of course, defended the Steelers.

Then up popped Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who some assumed might do some cheerleading for the Chicago Bears.
Or not. Instead, Kirk condemned lawmakers for taking up a petty resolution in serious times. No one engaged him, causing extreme awkwardness mid-debate.

“I just felt that it was not a serious debate during one of the most serious times in the Congress’s history,” Kirk told ITK. “It felt like it was an unnecessary distraction to debate the Super Bowl as opposed to borrowing a trillion dollars. Debating a two-week-old football game is not serious.”

Kirk said many colleagues supported him.

“In fact, dozens of them came up and said, ‘Thank God you said it.’ Lots of them appreciated the sentiment,” he said.
Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) was among those who spoke during debate on the resolution. He admitted the resolution wasn’t as pressing as the stimulus bill. However, he felt obliged to speak, considering his late grandfather used to own the Pittsburgh Steelers and his father and uncles still do.

“I was asked by Doyle to say a few words, and I was happy to talk about my grandfather for a minute,” Rooney said.

Female journalist claims Speaker changed no-purse rule
A female journalist walked into the Speaker’s Lobby last week with a handbag, claiming that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had changed her recent no-purses-in-the-lobby rule.

No such luck. A Pelosi floor aide confirmed to Capitol personnel that Pelosi had done nothing of the kind.

Rep. Meek gets a dose of Air Force One
Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) flew on Air Force One with President Obama last week. He said he came away from the experience with many things — one being an in-flight menu that he took as a memento.

Among the things he saw were all of Obama’s advisers hard at work throughout the flight — “because there’s so much work to be done,” he said.

So what did they offer the congressman to eat? The meal consisted of a baked potato with barbecue chicken on top.

“It was good,” Meek said, smiling.

The congressman flew on Air Force One just once before, on a trip to Haiti during former President Clinton’s administration.

Tags Al Franken Harry Reid Mark Kirk

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