Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, is once again going after his pal, Chairman Dan Burton (R-Ind.). This time he's puzzled as to why Burton scheduled a hearing in Los Angeles on Monday on "Russian Threats to U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War Era," including the possibility the commies long ago prepositioned arms in this country.
There "appears to be no rationale for locating the hearing in California," Waxman says in his Jan. 19 letter to Burton and holding it out West "imposes significant costs to the public treasury."
A Burton spokesman pointed out that California is one of the possible sites of the alleged Soviet arms caches, so folks there would want to know. Besides, Waxman's district includes Los Angeles, so Burton's scheduled a field hearing right on Waxman's home turf, something most members would be happy about. "You're damned if you do, damned if you don't," the spokesman said.
But we're talking many thousands of dollars for this, Waxman protests, since any lawmakers interested, as well as staff, a House reporter and all the witnesses must fly out there.
"At present, you have invited seven witnesses," Waxman wrote, "six of whom are government officials who presumably will travel at government expense. In addition, government witnesses may need to be accompanied by others in supporting roles, adding to the public expense." Not to mention some Capitol police to be flown out to "sweep" the room.
Even more puzzling, says Waxman, is that much of the hearing is going to be closed. "If the hearing were to be held in public session, California residents would at least have an opportunity to attend a congressional field hearing," he wrote. "I understand, however, that executive branch witnesses cannot give substantive testimony on this subject in public and that you plan to take their testimony in closed session. It is hard to understand why we are forcing government officials to fly from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles at public expense to testify at a hearing closed to the public."
Well, maybe we can answer Waxman's questions. It's really quite simple. For example, Waxman might want to ask himself: What time of year is it? Right, it's January. And what is the most important thing that happens in January? Correct, the famous Bob Hope Chrysler Classic celebrity golf tournament in Palm Springs.
And so where is Chairman Burton at this moment? Bingo! He's on the links--third round's today. Burton is a golf fanatic who somehow always finds himself invited to major golf tournaments. He's been a participating "celebrity" in the Bob Hope classic several times.
Actually, he's not listed on the program in bold face, as are real celebrities such as Michael Jordan, Bill Murray, Rod Laver, Alice Cooper, Chili Davis, Glen Campbell, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Frey. But what do people in LaLa land know about celebrities? Burton has insisted in the past that he has paid his own way and stayed with friends and there's no reason to think he's not paying his way this time.
On the other hand, if this hearing is in Los Angeles, wouldn't it be reasonable for the committee to pay his plane fare at least back to Washington, or even round-trip for that matter? Sure would. So what is Waxman's problem?
Our Man (and New Woman) in Budapest
Last thing we heard about New York lawyer-investment banker Peter Tufo, our ambassador to Hungary, was back in 1997, when his wife, novelist Francesca Stanfill, was spotted in Budapest before Tufo's Senate confirmation, checking out the residence and the school situation for their children.
Apparently things didn't measure up. Next thing we see is a British Broadcasting Corp. item that Hungarian President Arpad Goencz was a witness last month at Tufo's wedding to Kimberly Paige, reported to be a television actress and theater manager living in New York.
Lots of Hungarian political and society folks were at the wedding, which was at the U.S. Embassy. Convenient location for all, since the wedding came on the same day as a lovely commemoration of the Hungarian millennium at the embassy.
Saved a few bucks on flowers and music? A belated Loop congratulations to the newlyweds.
Haven't Been There; Haven't Done That
Good news for the new millennium for traveling lawmakers, staffs and spouses who are getting tired of London, Paris and Rome. Portugal this year holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, which provides a very fine reason for everyone to visit an exceptionally beautiful country that most government aircraft don't often get to. And Madrid is in the neighborhood.
Need guidance? Check with House International Relations Committee Chairman Benjamin A. Gilman (R-N.Y.). He's just back from taking a group of 10 colleagues, including Reps. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) and Constance A. Morella (R-Md.), spouses and staff on a swing through Copenhagen, Geneva, Brussels, Lisbon and Madrid to meet European leaders.
Latham Schedules a Change of Locale
Speaking of the EU, Sara Latham, formerly in the White House chief of staff's office and more recently deputy director of presidential scheduling, is off to Brussels, to work for Covington & Burlington in handling Microsoft's business relations with the EU folks.