By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane
Thursday, August 28, 2008
DENVER Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), the highly paid but ill-fated former Redskins quarterback, may have redeemed himself a bit with Washington fans who wanted him permanently run out of town. Shuler, who flopped at RFK in 1994 and 1995 but returned to the District in 2007 as a congressman, hit a home run Tuesday at Coors Field, where the Colorado Rockies play.
Lobbyists and others in the stands at the "Day at Coors Field" sponsored by Microsoft and Eli Lilly were shocked when Shuler went yard with a shot over the left field fence. "I never thought I'd see that!" said one Washington lobbyist (and committed Skins fan).
Coors Field's elevation makes it a notoriously hitter-friendly park, even for success-challenged former NFL quarterbacks.
Shuler acknowledged as much. "With the air this thin and light, we need to start playing the congressional baseball game out there," the congressman joked.
Shuler was among a handful of members of Congress -- including Reps. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) and Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) -- lobbyists and others who participated. The pitchers for the event were minor league players recruited by the event's sponsors.
Shuler has a connection to Coors Field: Todd Helton, the all-star first baseman for the Rockies, was his backup at the University of Tennessee.
Asked whether the slugging Shuler now wishes he had played professional baseball instead of football, Shuler spokesman Andrew Whalen said, "No, his first love was football."Mets Not Playing Ball
Speaking of ballparks, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared yesterday that he is no fan of the corporatization of professional sports stadiums. Schumer, a Brooklyn native, said at a news conference touting Democratic candidates in this fall's election that he had been pushing the New York Mets to name their new stadium in Queens after former Brooklyn Dodger standout Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's color barrier in 1947.
"But they don't pay," Schumer said of Robinson's family. "So it's going to be Citi Stadium," he added derisively.
For those keeping score at home, Schumer doesn't want Citigroup paying for naming rights to the new stadium, which is reportedly costing the financial giant $400 million over 20 years. He'd no doubt prefer the money go toward donations to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which he chairs. So far this election cycle, Citigroup has given $15,000 to Schumer's DSCC.Obscure Bands Rock
The group hosting the New Democrat Coalition party Tuesday had the right idea when it featured a band no one has ever heard of. That way, all House members and staff were able to attend free.
The House ethics committee came down hard on the New Democrat Coalition's rival conservative group, the Blue Dog Coalition, which made the grave mistake of wooing a headline entertainer for its late-night bash on Monday night.
The ethics committee's reasoning goes this way: If a lobbyist-sponsored convention party features well-known, headline entertainment, it violates congressional gift rules. If it's a no-name local musician, then members and staff can live it up without paying a dime. The rule has created a sort of caste system in the hierarchy of live entertainment at the conventions -- at least for members of the House.
While senators and their aides got in free, House members and staff -- who are under stricter ethics rules -- had to pay $22 to see pop rock star KT Tunstall at the Blue Dog party co-hosted by AT&T. They had to plop down $50 to see Willie Nelson at a concert sponsored by the energy company CH2M Hill. And last night, those who had the cash forked over $90 to see a concert by hip-hop king Kanye West at a party co-hosted by the Recording Industry Association of America and the One Campaign, a global aid group.
"We did it the right way," boasts one New Democrat staffer, who didn't even know the name of the band performing at the party.
Next week, at the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities, House staff members who attend Monday's "Convention Kick-Off" party will have to pay $25 to hear the Beach Boys.
Ethics lawyers say that the prices are determined by talks between the House committee and party hosts. The easiest method is to check the average price of a ticket the last time a headline act appeared in the host city.
Lawmakers and aides who paid to see Tunstall might be relieved to hear their money is going to charity. Andy Dodson, a lobbyist who helped organize the 2008 BD Convention Fund LLC, the official sponsor of the Blue Dog party, tells us the group collected more than $5,000 from ticket sales to House members and staff. All of it will go to a group called No Greater Sacrifice, which helps families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, he says.Crowley for President?
Conventions have always been good venues for those who want to run for president to make connections with activists from Iowa, home of the critical first-in-the-nation caucuses every four years. So, while we doubt little-known Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) is really interested in a White House run, we can attest that he picked up a few new fans in the Hawkeye State this week.
Crowley brought the house down at the Celtic Tavern in downtown Denver at a party Sunday night in honor of Iowa's delegates -- he sat in as guest lead singer with the Democratic Party's favorite Bruce Springsteen tribute group, the B Street Band.
Crowley performed such Springsteen classics as "Sherry Darling" and "Thunder Road." When he tried to leave, the crowd kept cheering for more Crowley-as-Boss.
"Thank you, Iowa," he bellowed when he finally made it off stage.
Springsteen fans -- and there are many here -- will have to settle for the B Street Band's performances this week. Despite widespread talk that Springsteen would appear tonight at Invesco Field, our colleague J. Freedom duLac knocked down that rumor yesterday when sources close to the Boss told him there would be no DNC appearance.
If only he'd come, maybe Crowley and the real Boss would sing a duet.Biden Staffer Gets a Pass for Love
One staffer for Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) who wasn't on hand for the boss's big speech last night has the best excuse of all: He's getting married -- in bipartisan fashion, no less.
Nelson Peacock, 39, chief counsel for Biden's Judiciary Committee work, is at a beach resort in Orange County, Calif., where he will marry Susan Sheybani, 29, on Friday. Sheybani is President Bush's spokeswoman for strategic communications on the National Security Council.
The wedding, obviously, was planned long before Peacock's boss was picked to be Obama's running mate, so Peacock has missed the convention festivities.
"In the midst of all this political bickering, there is still hope for bipartisanship," said Denver Peacock, the groom's brother and best man, who was at the convention this week. "Even with the recent Biden-as-veep announcement, all indications are she is still onboard with the wedding."