Congressman Says Home Purchase Was 'Pretty Much Aboveboard'

By Al Kamen
Friday, May 11, 2007

Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-Ohio) has a nifty new 3,751-square-foot, four-bedroom house in suburban Columbus, Ohio, next to a golf course designed by the great Arnold Palmer.

The $1 million house has some unusual characteristics. It's not in his congressional district, but sits about 90 minutes away from the condo that he uses as his official residence.

Even more curious is that Gillmor's name appears nowhere on the property records. The Toledo Blade, after some fine digging by reporter Joshua Boak, found that the owner is Zenith Holding & Trading Corp.

That, in turn, is a subsidiary of a Columbus law and lobbying firm -- Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease -- whose PAC has contributed $6,500 to Gillmor's campaigns since 1997.

The firm sent the paper a letter saying that Zenith has the property in trust "at the request of, and for the benefit of" Gillmor, who paid the mortgage and taxes.

Gillmor's office initially declined to confirm the address, saying Capitol Police suggested for security that lawmakers not give out such information, the paper reported.

But Gillmor acknowledged that he retained Zenith to buy the property on his behalf.

"There's nothing unethical or unusual," he told the paper. "It's all pretty much aboveboard." He said the deal was transparent because the Blade was able to trace it back to him, the paper said.

In a follow-up letter to the newspaper, Gillmor said he considers the properties outside his district to be "only real estate investments." Why this purchase? "I just felt like it," he told the Blade. "I don't have to explain why I moved to a different house."

"Pretty much"?

Toss a Helmet in Your Carry-On for That Iraq Jaunt

Has the surging euro crimped your Paris summer vacation plans? How about Baghdad? There are bargains to be had, and everyone's talking about how the security situation is improving there after four years of war.

Even so, it pays to be cautious, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad tells us, even in the hyper-guarded Green Zone. "All American citizens are urged to consider this information carefully when making plans to travel to U.S. government facilities, especially in the International Zone," a May 3 advisory to government personnel says.

"As a result of the recent increase of indirect fire attacks" -- also called mortar fire -- "on the International Zone, outdoor movement is restricted to a minimum. Remain within a hardened structure to the maximum extent possible and strictly avoid congregating outdoors."

If you work "outside a hardened structure or [are] traveling a substantial distance outdoors, personal protective equipment (PPE)" -- helmet and flak jacket, any color -- "is mandatory until further notice. . . . Please note, PPE is strongly recommended, especially when frequenting structures without overhead cover (e.g. self-serve laundry, Post Office, etc.)."

You can party on, but keep jacket and helmet on in "public places that are not in a hardened structure -- such as the Blue Star Restaurant," we're told.

"The requirements provided herein are intended to maximize safety and minimize the senseless loss of life to" embassy and military personnel.

But with that minor inconvenience, Baghdad could be exciting, though you should be careful where you go. For example: "Effective immediately," an April 23 advisory says, "the Qadisiyah Apartments, also known as the 215 Apartments, and surrounding restaurants are off-limits" to all embassy personnel "other than local nationals."

Sunbathing would be ill-advised, but don't miss a shopping trip to the famed Shorja market.

Musical Managers at USCIS

Folks at Citizenship and Immigration Services seem to be having trouble deciding their lineup.

On April 30, USCIS Director Emilio González sent an e-mail announcing, among several moves, that Jose Montero, chief of communications, was going to be the chief human capital officer. (That probably means "personnel.") González said Janis Sposato, who is associate director of national security and records verification, was to replace Montero as chief communications officer.

All this was to happen the next day, González explained, saying the group "will bring new energy and perspective to these critical divisions within the organization." He continued: "The rotations reflect my priorities in the areas of recruitment, retention, employee development, stakeholder liaison and international affairs. I thank our leaders for stepping up to the plate during this time of opportunity and change."

Some stepped up, some stepped back. Montero, according to an e-mail Monday from the communications office, moved back to his old job as chief of communications. Sposato, who was to replace him, instead will be chief human capital officer.

No explanation included, but clearly it's a "time of opportunity and change."

Whispered Diplomacy?

White House staffers said President Bush would take no questions during a Tuesday photo-op, but Mark Smith of AP Radio gave it a try and asked Bush about his Monday-morning exchange with Queen Elizabeth II after the president flubbed the date of the U.S. bicentennial and inadvertently added two centuries to the age of Her Majesty.

Video of the exchange seems to show the queen saying two words, but they have yet to be definitively deciphered from the clips or audio recordings.

Bush provided no clues yesterday during an exchange with Smith and other reporters:

Q: "We're dying to know. What did she say to you? After 1776?"

Bush: "It wasn't 1776. It was 17 -- correction 1976."

Q: "But what did she say?"

Bush: "Nothing. She was on the stage."

Q: "But we heard her say something."

Bush: "Nah, she didn't say anything."

A Slightly Smaller Audience

Wednesday's column overstated the number of students graduating today at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., where Bush is the commencement speaker. Only about 400 are graduating.

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