Alec Baldwin, Lobbyist: Turning On the Star Power

Rep. Steny Hoyer with Alec Baldwin
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) talks arts funding with actor Alec Baldwin. (Jim Saah For Americans For The Arts)
By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"I love to tell people, 'I go down to Washington and I lobby ,' " Alec Baldwin was saying at an "Arts Advocacy" breakfast on Capitol Hill yesterday. The word rolled from the actor's mouth with a savoring rasp. "'Gotta catch a plane to D.C. and lobby!' "

But how does a celebrity lobby Congress? We figured we'd learn a thing or two (and maybe pick up pointers for childhood-facial-deformities specialist Jessica Simpson , making her Hill debut tomorrow) if we followed one of Hollywood's most dependable lefties as he pleaded for arts funding.

"I get a headache around these people. Committees! Budgets!" Baldwin growled, piling into a Rayburn Building elevator with an Americans for the Arts entourage that included Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell . From his smile and the way he threw around legislative jargon ("Labor-H"), he clearly does not.

In his first visit, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said a theater group had asked her to join in a reading of a play -- should she? "Yes!" Baldwin exclaimed, adding that she should never sing or dance if Mitchell is there to compete, ha ha ha !

Then he talked shop: "What's the obstacle? You're on that committee that zeroed out the $36 million in funding." When DeLauro moaned about tax cuts, he nodded. He'll be back, he suggested, to talk "about changing the leadership." Then he posed for photos with DeLauro and her staff.

The group's chief counsel, Nina Ozlu, briefed him on their next stop, Rep. Bud Cramer (D-Ala.). Talk about the National Endowment for the Arts' Challenge America grants, now under the White House budget ax, she said. In Cramer's office, Baldwin hit his marks: "If it weren't for Challenge America, your district wouldn't have received any arts funding."

At Rep. Colin Peterson's office they were told only five minutes. But the music-loving Minnesota Dem was in a mood to chat. "The guy who was in 'Kiss Me Kate' is here?" Baldwin -- who opens a revival of Joe Orton's "Entertaining Mr. Sloane" on Broadway this week -- pointed out Mitchell, who won a Tony Award for "Kate"; Peterson said he played a role in a college production. More photos as the group departed.

Baldwin struck a modest tone when asked what they had accomplished here. "You're tapping them on the shoulder and reminding them about arts funding at this time of the year." What about the fame factor? It's huge, said Ozlu, who usually ends up with a chief of staff when she lobbies solo. "Usually members of Congress only want to meet with their constituents or interest groups," she said, "unless you bring their equivalent in terms of stature."

But Was There Cake? Ice Cream?

Millionaire bachelor Michael Saylor has been keeping a lower profile these days, except for his legendary birthday parties. MicroStrategy's CEO celebrated his 41st Saturday with "Mr. Saylor's Circus" -- a blowout at the Mellon Auditorium for a few hundred of his closest friends. Saylor, in tails, served as ringmaster while 1980s rapper Doug E. Fresh , a disco band, stiltwalkers and undulating acrobats entertained the crowd. There was probably more, but the birthday boy didn't return our calls. The party was almost tame by Saylor standards, but notably extravagant for a private affair in Washington. "It's great that Mike's around to do this stuff," said one VIP on the list. "It keeps things interesting."

Hey, Isn't That . . . ?

· Prince in back-to-back appearances at IndeBleu restaurant. His Purpleness dropped by late Sunday night after his concert with Ta'mar at Nation, and returned Monday (in a powder-blue zoot suit) with a smallish entourage for scrambled eggs and pasta marinara, but no booze.

· Jenna and Barbara Bush at Oyamel restaurant in Crystal City. The foursome, which included Jenna's boyfriend, Henry Hager , and the twins' pal Joshua Ginsberg, shared the table-prepared guacamole and tacos.

· Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) in the cheap seats Monday night. The congressman turned down an upgrade on the Delta flight back from Florida, choosing instead to sit in the back of the spring-break-crowded plane.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company