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A History Lesson in the Slammer

Rep. John Lewis, at left, and Rep. Jim McGovern, center, have their belongings taken by U.S. Secret Service after being arrested in front of the Sudanese Embassy on Monday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Think being in Congress gets you special treatment when you're hauled off to jail? No, but there are benefits.

Rep. Jim McGovern was one of five members arrested Monday at a Darfur protest at the Sudanese Embassy. McGovern, along with Reps. John Lewis, Keith Ellison, Donna Edwards, Lynn Woolsey and other activists, were taken in a sweltering paddy wagon to D.C.'s 2nd Precinct station. After fingerprints and mug shots, they were tossed in the clinker -- minus wallets, jewelry, belts, shoelaces, cellphones and BlackBerrys.

They got water, but no lunch. Without all their gadgets, they had nothing to do but talk -- for three hours, without any interruptions.

"It was really a privilege to be in the same cell as John Lewis," McGovern said. "He told stories about what he went through in the civil rights movement. It reinforced the importance of civil disobedience." The good times ended when they were released after each paying a $100 fine.

More fun than a normal Monday on the Hill? Heck, yeah. "I would have been in a thousand meetings," he said with a grin.

McGovern shared his hard-time tale at Tuesday's Prevent Cancer's poker tournament at Union Station after busting out of a game early in the night. Big-name pros (Phil Gordon, Howard Lederer, Lee Childs, Jason Young, Rafe Furst), lawmakers (Reps. Barney Frank, Joe Barton, Bobby Scott and Sen. Mark Begich, among others), Hill staffers and lobbyists raised $200,000 for research.

For the first time in the benefit's history, the pros played against the amateurs, and the politicians were quickly eliminated. "I should have won the darn thing," said Barton. "I had three of a kind and got beat by a full house." (Ha! Typical poker-speak.) The winner of a $10,000 seat at the World Series of Poker Main Event? Jesse Kerns, a health-care specialist -- because in Washington, lobbyists always seem to come out on top, don't they?

By The Reliable Source  |  April 30, 2009; 1:04 AM ET
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