Lovely Scenery on Capitol Hill

Political wonks are sexy? Members of Congress are sexy? Yes, and evidence is in the Hill newspaper, which set hearts atwitter this week with a People magazine-style listing of the 50 Most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill. (All the hot pix are available at TheHill.com.)

Topping the first-ever pageant are very easy-on-the-eyes GOP staffers: 22-year-old Audra Ozols, Florida Rep. Tom Feeney's executive assistant, and 24-year-old Brian Peterson, a legislative assistant to Ohio Rep. Bob Ney. "Do I have to tell you I haven't been taken out too many times?" Ozols teases the readers, while Peterson confesses that his pet peeve is lateness and he's turned off by loud scenes.

Congress represented itself pretty well in the beauty contest, which also included lobbyists and even journalists. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.), a suave bachelor with a playa rep, made the cut, as did newly arrived Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D-S.D.), who's dating Rep. Max Sandlin (D-Tex.). In the Senate, the hotties are veep choice John Edwards (D-N.C.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.). CNN producer Janet Rodriguez and the New York Post's Vince Morris also made the list.

Meanwhile, in what was surely a coincidence, sex was on the mind of Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) yesterday while the House Resources Committee considered legislation to revamp the Endangered Species Act. Noting that government scientists erred by 300 percent in estimating alligators' reproductive rates, Tauzin said: "I don't blame them. It's hard to get close to them when they're doing it."

Novelist Iris Burnett's A-List, B-List, C-List . . .

* Veteran political operative Iris Jacobson Burnett may set a record for "special thanks" with the eight-page list of names in the back of her new novel, "Schlepper!," a semi-autobiographical tale of campaigns and conventions. She lists more than 750 people, including White House occupants, celebrities and media heavyweights.

"I listed everybody who had some sort of effect on my life, so it's bound to be a lot of people," the 57-year-old writer told us yesterday. "And they left out 50 names, at least."

Dropping names can work as a Washington book-selling strategy -- and Burnett knows strategy. She has schlepped herself to every Democratic National Convention since the 1980 confab in New York, where she was in charge of security. She worked for Gary Hart in 1984, escorted Bill Clinton and John Kerry in 1988, and controlled access to Al and Tipper Gore's booth in 2000.

In the novel, Burnett's alter ego works for a generic political party. She has an affair with a Secret Service agent. "But everybody has an affair with a Secret Service agent, so it knows no political boundaries," said the Arlington author, who's married to photojournalist David Burnett.

She intends to steer clear of Boston next week, telling us, "I think it's just going to be a nightmare. I don't need to be there, even to sell books." She anticipates brutal battles over who gets the hometown spotlight: "The politics of Boston is more dangerous than any terrorist; it's really inside people, the candidate and his people, taking over the convention."

But won't she miss the fun? "The most fun was when I was director of security in 1980 and there were 16,000 guys -- police, Secret Service, FBI and CIA. Those are really good odds!"

SQUIBS

* We haven't heard so much about socks in Washington since Bill Clinton's cat roamed the White House. "Is it possible to inadvertently put things in your socks?" CNN anchor Jack Cafferty asked on air yesterday morning, adding to the tabloid-driven chatter about one of Sandy Berger's alleged modes of transporting materials from the National Archives. "It's just something that I was pondering in the middle of the night. I couldn't sleep." Meanwhile, NBC's Katie Couric confronted Berger attorney Lanny Breuer: "Some of the New York tabloids are suggesting he stuffed documents in his socks. What's that about?" Breuer, a veteran at doing Dem damage control, was adamant: "It's scurrilous and it's absolutely false. . . . That claim came from the first time when someone leaked it without any basis at all." Breuer has acknowledged that Berger tucked handwritten notes he made from classified documents into his pockets. Next up: The distinction between "pockets" and "pants."

* Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) is calling it quits after a 32-year political career, and one of the send-offs will surround him with the Hollywood types he could have hobnobbed with all the time if only he'd taken the job as MPAA chief Jack Valenti's replacement. At the Dem convention, the nonpartisan arts advocacy group Creative Coalition, along with Congressional Quarterly, is handing Breaux its 2004 Congressional Spotlight Award at a reception to include coalition co-presidents Tony Goldwyn and Joe "Pants" Pantoliano, Billy Baldwin, Ellen Burstyn, Chris Cooper, Wes Craven, Alan Cumming, Minnie Driver and Alyssa Milano (to name a few). "It takes a creative person to think I deserve an award," Breaux humbly told us through his spokesman. A modest senator? We'll definitely miss that.

* In other kudos: Actor and comedian John Leguizamo will receive the arts award at the Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation's bash at the Kennedy Center on Sept. 10 (airing on NBC Sept. 18), and hot designer Narciso Rodriguez has nabbed the group's vision award.

The Annals of Puffery

An Occasional Verbatim Press Releas

* "The low-carb craze has gone to the dogs! . . . Just like people, pets are watching their waistline, too, so now there's a new pet treat that even you can eat!

"Liv-A-Littles, the all-natural, low-carb, freeze-dried treats for pets, are so healthy that they are the only USDA-approved pet snacks for humans to eat! The treats are made from the finest, all-natural, free-range chicken, filet mignon and wild, cold-water codfish. . . . All three flavors come in adorable, ready-to-travel containers."

With Anne Schroeder