Washington sites worthy of naughty note

Al Kamen
Columnist November 14, 2013

The Hay-Adams is back in the scandal spotlight, with revelations by our colleagues that the hotel was the scene of some poor behavior by a high-ranking Secret Service agent on the president’s security detail.

It’s not the venerable establishment’s first rodeo. The Hay-Adams was already a member of the elite cadre of high-end hotels that have been the backdrop to some of Washington’s most notorious doings.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

In 1987, conservative fundraiser Carl “Spitz” Channell admitted to cheating on taxes to help arm Nicaraguan rebels, an operation that involved the help of Ollie North — and at least four meetings were held at the Hay-Adams to solicit money for the contras from sympathizers.

“In the leathery splendor of the dining rooms, and in the lush comfort of the cocktail lounge,” Lloyd Grove wrote in The Washington Post at the time. “They happily wrote and received large checks.”

Still, the more recent naughtiness does give the hotel its first taste of a sex scandal (the Secret Service agent in question was trying to get back into the room of a woman he apparently spent some time with). That puts it in august company.

The Mayflower is perhaps the town’s leading sex-scandal hotel: It’s where Eliot Spitzer took at least one high-priced escort in the affair that cost him his job as New York governor, and it was a sanctuary for a rumored mistress of President John F. Kennedy as well as for Monica Lewinsky. The Jefferson, of course, was where another Clinton White House figure, Dick Morris, was involved with a prostitute.

Here’s our favorite detail about the most recent incident to land the Hay-Adams on the Washington scandal tour: The incident began at the hotel’s bar, where the Secret Service agent met the woman with whom he had the tryst.

And the name of that bar is, improbably, Off the Record.

New kids on the block

The White House announced Thursday that President Obama would nominate candidates for several key government posts, including surgeon general, assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Justice Department and undersecretary for science at the Energy Department.

Obama selected Vivek Hallegere Murthy, co-founder and president of Doctors for America and co-founder of VISIONS Worldwide, a nonprofit focused on HIV/AIDS in India and the United States, to be surgeon general. Murthy is also an instructor in medicine at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Franklin Orr, director of the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University, former director of the Global Climate and Energy Project at Stanford and chairman of the department of petroleum engineering, was tapped to be undersecretary of energy for science.

Debo Adegbile, senior counsel at the Senate Judiciary Committee and longtime senior official at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, is the pick to be the assistant attorney general for civil rights.

Marc Kastner, dean of the School of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, former head of MIT’s physics department and before that head of the school’s Physics Division of Atomic, Condensed Matter and Plasma Physics, was selected to be director of the Energy Department’s Office of Science.

Secondhand emotions

More on the recent move by legendary soul singer Tina Turner , now married and, for the past 20 years, living in Switzerland, to “relinquish” her U.S. citizenship.

A source had told us that such an action carried no tax implications, indicating that a citizenship “renunciation” would have had some.

Michael Pfeifer, an expert in tax law at Caplin & Drysdale in Washington, writes to say that under current law, enacted in 2008, the tax consequences would be almost surely identical. Various “exit taxes” could be due whether she’s renouncing or just relinquishing, he noted.

All in all, the consequences, at least for some U.S. citizens, apparently could be very good. In fact, this year there have been a record number of expatriations, the Wall Street Journal and CNBC report, citing a recent U.S. “tax crackdown on offshore assets” held by citizens as a motivating factor. So far this year, 2,369 citizens and green-card holders have expatriated, easily eclipsing the record high of 1,781 for all of 2011.

On the other hand, we shouldn’t conclude that Turner’s move came for tax reasons. She became a Swiss national in April and, according to an Oct. 24 U.S. Embassy “activity report,” has declared that she no longer has any strong ties to the United States and “has no plans to reside” here in the future.

After all, it was Barrett Strong, not Turner, who recorded “Money (That’s What I Want).”

Turner recorded “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”

Well, maybe a lot.

Transparency watch

In his first inaugural address, President Obama said that “those of us who manage the public’s dollars” will “do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.”

And he issued a memo to all department and agency heads instructing them that “my administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government.”

Maybe the message hasn’t quite sunk in everywhere.

Take, for example, the tussle that ProPublica, the online investigative organization, has been having with the State Department over a list of maybe 100 “special government employees” working there. (SGEs were created 50 years ago so experts with outside jobs could work part time in government — with or without pay.)

This would include folks like former Hillary Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills, who we reported in August had been working as an SGE on Haiti matters. Other Clinton aides, such as Huma Abedin and Maggie Williams, also were reported to have been working there as SGEs. So we’re down to 97.

ProPublica’s Justin Elliott and Liz Day asked a number of agencies to send lists of their SGEs. Many readily did. But not the State Department.

“As general policy,” a spokeswoman said, the department “does not disclose employee information of this nature.”

In September, in response to ProPublica’s July Freedom of Information Act request for the names, officials at State said that no such list existed, that the personnel folks don’t compile lists of SGEs, and that putting together such a list would require “extensive research” and so the department didn’t have to respond under FOIA. Seriously, that’s what they said.

ProPublica told State in late September that it was going to write about the refusal. The agency then said it would turn over the records in a few weeks. “It’s been four months since the original request was filed,” ProPublica noted.

In response to our inquiry, a State Department official said: “Our FOIA office works to respond to all FOIA requests in a comprehensive and timely manner to comply with requesters while maintaining employee protections of privacy. The request from ProPublica is in process, and our office is diligently working to resolve it.”

Perhaps it’s appropriate that the State Department’s headquarters is in Foggy Bottom.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

SECTION: {section=politics, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=3, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=14, comments_source=washpost.com, default_sort=, default_tab=, display_comments=true, is_ugc_gallery=false, max_items_to_display=15, max_items_to_display_top=3, moderation_required=false, stream_id=}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=3, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=politics, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=3, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=14, comments_source=washpost.com, default_sort=, default_tab=, display_comments=true, is_ugc_gallery=false, max_items_to_display=15, max_items_to_display_top=3, moderation_required=false, stream_id=}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=3, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Show Comments