Republicans may want to think twice about tangling with Sen. Patrick Leahy.
The Vermont Democrat, who famously exchanged words last year with Vice President Cheney, reported this week receiving a handgun as a gift from an old college friend.
Not just any handgun. This one was a .50-caliber Smith & Wesson with a 10-inch barrel, valued at $950. "The senator is a lifelong sport shooter," his spokesman said.
It was one of the more unusual gifts to show up this week in lawmakers' financial disclosure forms. Senators must report gifts valued at more than $305; the House requires notice of those worth more than $285.
Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) received a sword -- a three-foot replica of Excalibur -- from former presidential candidate Ross Perot. The sword, which hangs on his office wall, honors his work on Gulf War illness. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) reported receiving a rug and a tea set from the president of Azerbaijan (valued at $950), a $328 watch from the French president and a grape-serving set ($150) from the king of Jordan. All were turned over to the secretary of the Senate as required by chamber rules on gifts from foreign governments.
But the most popular guy on the Hill, or at least the most meticulous, was Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) who filed more than 30 pages of gifts, including coffee mugs, "Superman" T-shirts and a pair of wooden shoes. "Every gift we get -- a poster, a calendar, a book, anything that the congressman receives -- we log as a gift," his spokesman said. "It's a matter of letting the public know."
Harris a Rallying Force
Democrats didn't think much of Katherine Harris when she was Florida's top election official, but they can hardly contain their glee over the announcement that she plans to run for the Senate in 2006.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fired off an e-mail to its supporters last week, just one day after her announcement, reminding them of all the hard feelings from the 2000 presidential contest -- and suggesting how they might finally get their revenge on the former secretary of state who presided over all those hanging chads.
"If it weren't for her mismanagement and overt partisanship, President Al Gore would be halfway through his second term now," it said. "You can help the DSCC defeat Katherine Harris and the rest of the Republican Senate candidates by making a contribution today."
Days later, America Coming Together, the Democratic 527 organization, issued its own Harris-themed plea for cash. "Remember Katherine Harris of Florida in 2000? Now imagine Senator Katherine Harris," its e-mail said.
Democrats believe her candidacy will drive up its turnout in next year's election, helping not only the reelection campaign of Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) but also the party's bid to reclaim the governor's office.
Republicans are still hoping for other, less polarizing Senate candidates. Allan Bense, the state House speaker, said this week that both the White House and the governor are encouraging him to run. Rep. Mark Foley is also weighing a bid.
None of that is stopping Harris, who issued her own fundraising e-mail this week that did not avoid the 2000 debacle. "Liberals simply cannot get over the fact that I followed the law and stood up for Florida's rights after the 2000 election. Now, they think they can fight that election all over again . . .," it said. "Would you please help with a donation of $25, $50, $100 or even $500 today?"