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Heather Podesta, a Storm in the Summer of the Lobbyist

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By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 24, 2009

NEW YORK

The chairman beams.

So many people just dying to see him, the business guys, the pols, the lobbyists -- lots and lots of lobbyists. They circle Charlie Rangel -- birthday boy, Democrat and, of course, House Ways and Means chairman -- circles like rings on a tree planted in the party room here at Tavern on the Green. Simple math: the more powerful the pol, the more rings on the tree. This is a very thick tree.

Not a problem, though, for Heather Podesta.

"It's like doing the tango!" she says, all smiles yet all business.

The lobbyist tango: She glides right in her red D&G heels and her periwinkle stockings, cutting through the outer rings with a smile here, a kiss-kiss there, a "Great to see you!" or two. Some guy yells out: "The most beautiful woman in the world!" She doesn't blush, and she doesn't linger. She wriggles left, gets blocked, reverses direction, gets blocked again, reverses direction again. She's in.

"Great party!" Podesta tells the chairman.

"Isn't it wonderful?" Rangel gushes back.

The chairman pecks the lobbyist's cheek, and they're done. Thirty seconds of face time. Mission accomplished.

"Doesn't get any better than that," Podesta says, amused by the surreal nature of the ritual she has mastered. "A kiss from the chairman."

And so it goes, in Heather's World. On this particular muggy night in Central Park, she's electrically caffeinated after taking the red-eye from Las Vegas the night before (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's energy summit) and she'll be turning around and flying west again in a couple of days (Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's donor shindig in Napa wine country). It may be summer recess, but this is not a time to rest. This is a time to go full-bore. This is a time like nothing we've seen for a long, long time.

We've had the Summer of Love. We've had the Summer of the Shark.


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