Senator Anonymous

Mystery of Hold Wrapped in Enigma

Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), left, and Judd Gregg (R-NH) denied putting a hold on a measure mandating electronic filing of campaign finance reports.
Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), left, and Judd Gregg (R-NH) denied putting a hold on a measure mandating electronic filing of campaign finance reports. (Terry Ketron - Via Bloomberg News)

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The wrath of the blogosphere bore down yesterday on two senators who remained suspects in a modern-day Washington whodunit.

The mystery: Who placed an anonymous hold on legislation that would require senators to file their campaign finance forms electronically?

The bill was poised for passage last week when Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) rose on the Senate floor and announced, "Mr. President, on behalf of a Republican senator, I object."

The objection -- a long-standing Senate custom that allows a single unnamed member to stop any bill in its tracks -- unleashed a vigorous response from bloggers, led by the Sunlight Foundation. The group called on its members to dial their senators and ask if they put the hold on the bill.

Over the past week, the Sunlight Foundation continued to update its list, crossing off names as its members obtained denials. Yesterday morning, they were down to two -- Republican Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Judd Gregg (N.H.).

Before dawn, the group sent an e-mail blast to 200 members who live in New Hampshire and Arizona and they started dialing. "Kyl said, 'It's not me,' about an hour after that," said Ellen S. Miller, the executive director.

But from Gregg, there was silence.

At 5 p.m., his spokeswoman, Erin Rath, replied to a reporter's inquiry by e-mail: "As a matter of practice, Senator Gregg does not use secret holds."

But in this instance? "No," she replied.

So, whodunit?

"Is it possible that someone lied to one of their constituents saying they were not the person who placed a hold on the bill? That is always possible," Miller said. "But I'd be astounded by it."

The next step? Miller said a new round of phone calls may start today, asking a new question: "Who lied?"

-- Matthew Mosk


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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