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Ferguson Unmasked as GOP Flood Control Advocate

The flood gates have opened, and the identity of the House Republican who used his question to President Bush last week to make a pitch for his own small flood-control project has been revealed.

It's Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.), who eked out a 50 percent to 48 percent win last fall over state assemblywoman Linda Stender. Ferguson apparently feels the need to squeeze every local project he can out of the White House and GOP leadership to shore up his position for 2008.

Ferguson's identity was revealed this morning by Roll Call (subscription required), the alma mater of Capitol Briefing and The Sleuth.

As Capitol Briefing first reported from Maryland's Eastern Shore Friday, the House Republican Conference concluded a 48-hour retreat with a closed-door, question-and-answer session with Bush, which many lawmakers described afterward as "frank." About 15 or so questioned Bush, and everyone appears to have stuck to the hot-button issues of the day such as Iraq, immigration and health care.

But two members of the Republican leadership, Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (Fla.) and Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.), the chief deputy whip, told reporters afterward that one lawmaker actually took the time to plead for money for a flood-control project in his district.

Cantor and Putnam declined to name the lawmaker, as did other GOP staff in the room. However, the newly engaged and interim author of Roll Call's Heard on the Hill column, Ben Pershing, dug up Ferguson's identity -- and Ferguson isn't backing off of his plea for flood control money.

He says that this project is desperately needed, pointing to the flooding that followed Hurricane Floyd in 1999, which by the time it reached the Garden State had turned into a tropical depression but still wreaked havoc with flood waters that knocked out critical technology hub points.

"It's a really big deal in our district," Ferguson told Heard on the Hill. "I urged him to include it in his budget." Moreover, Ferguson makes the pitch for the Green Brook Flood Control Project every time he sees Bush: "I never miss a chance to advocate for it."

For those who think that it's a little inappropriate to spend any time discussing such a parochial issue, Capitol Briefing can report that Ferguson didn't just talk about floods with the president. According to GOP sources in the room, Ferguson pivoted off his local project to give a rousing pep talk about Bush's mission in the final two years of his presidency.

"We fundamentally want you to succeed," Ferguson told Bush, according to a source in the room at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Resort.

With that, the roomful of Republicans burst into a standing ovation.

A 1992 graduate of Notre Dame University, Ferguson appears to have honed his Knut Rockne-style pep-talk skills from Lou Holtz, the school's football coach while Ferguson was a student there. Holtz, now an ESPN analyst and hired gun on the lecture circuit, ALSO gave a rousing, fire-and-brimstone speech to the GOP troops the evening before Bush arrived at the retreat. Holtz's Washinton Speaker's Bureau page says he garners more than $40,000 per appearance to present his "Game Plan for Success."

By Paul Kane  |  January 31, 2007; 1:43 PM ET
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