Who Paid For Voting Rights Luncheon?
The D.C. delegation to the Democratic National Convention was 2,000 miles away in Denver but that didn't stop some last-minute campaign sniping from going on.
It began when Paul Strauss (D), the District's shadow senator, set up a luncheon last week in Denver featuring actress Hayden Panettiere ("Heroes") stumping for D.C. Voting Rights. About 50 people attended, dining from a buffet set up in a meeting room at the Crown Plaza Hotel. The Hollywood star power seemed like just the kind of publicity stunt that might draw some attention to a longtime cause.
But the event seemed suspicious to allies of Philip Pannell (D), who is running against Strauss. A friend of Pannell's approached D.C. Wire and suggested it launch an inquiry into whether D.C. Democratic State Committee money was being used to pay for the lunch. If so, the friend said, the committee should have voted on whether the event was a good use of funds and Panettiere a legitimate spokeswoman for the cause.
D.C. Wire did follow up and was told that Strauss, fellow Democratic shadow Sen. Michael Brown and shadow Rep. Mike Panetta (D) use a special fund created this year to promote voting rights. The money was contributed by D.C. taxpayers who checked a box to allow a dollar of their tax return to be used for the cause. (Strauss and Panettiere, who met on Capitol Hill last year when the actress testified on behalf of Save the Whales Again, filmed a public service announcement for the tax return fund.)
Strauss had a big presence at the convention, with an entourage of about a half-dozen interns helping him, some wearing Secret Service earpieces and communication devices.
Pannell couldn't resist taking another shot at Strauss this week: "Paul seems to relish the role of playing senator, because we all know that the position is not for real. He spends too much time developing and promoting the trappings of power when the reality is this is basically a ceremonial post."
So why does Panell want the job?
"I do think this is a position of real advocacy," he said. "In my mind, the people in these positions should really be beating the bushes to deal with the issue of the District disenfranchisement that is where the emphasis should be."
Like staging a high-profile voting rights luncheon, perhaps?
David A Nakamura
September 3, 2008; 1:48 PM ET
Categories: 2008 District Election
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