Inside Washington

Meet Congress’s personal bootlegger.

George L. Cassiday
National Journal
Elahe Izad and Emma Roller
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Elahe Izad Emma Roller
April 10, 2014, 5 p.m.

Gin Blos­soms

In a yet-to-be-gentri­fied area of North­east D.C., a non­des­cript ware­house was un­usu­ally lively. In­side? A bot­tling party. The Ivy City ware­house is home to New Columbia Dis­til­lers. Star­ted in 2012 by Mi­chael Lowe, New Columbia is unique in that it’s the first dis­til­lery in Wash­ing­ton since be­fore Pro­hib­i­tion. But that isn’t the com­pany’s only link to the coun­try’s (of­fi­cially) tee­total­ing days. New Columbia’s sig­na­ture product, Green Hat gin, pays homage to Con­gress’s per­son­al boot­leg­ger.

While mem­bers of Con­gress may have cham­pioned tem­per­ance on the floor, many of them broke those laws in any of the 3,000 speak­easies scattered throughout down­town Wash­ing­ton. And when mem­bers needed to re­stock their per­son­al hooch sup­ply, they turned to one man: George Cas­si­day. Cas­si­day es­tim­ated that four of every five mem­bers of Con­gress drank — and many of them availed them­selves of Cas­si­day’s ser­vices. Con­gress even gave Cas­si­day his own stor­e­room in the base­ment of the Can­non Of­fice Build­ing, but he was even­tu­ally ar­res­ted in 1930. Cas­si­day be­came in­fam­ously known as “the man in the green hat,” and thus the Dis­trict’s new brand of gin was christened.

Emma Roller

 

House Poor

It’s not that much fun be­ing a mem­ber of Con­gress. Amer­ic­ans say they like Nick­el­back more than Con­gress — Nick­el­back, people! On top of that, the pay ain’t all that grand — and main­tain­ing a D.C. res­id­ence in ad­di­tion to the one in your home dis­trict can be a bit rough on an an­nu­al salary of $174,000.

Demo­crat­ic Rep. Jim Mor­an of Vir­gin­ia has a solu­tion to get his col­leagues more money to make ends meet: Don’t give mem­bers a cost-of-liv­ing in­crease; just give them a hous­ing sti­pend. Mor­an’s pro­pos­al failed to ad­vance Wed­nes­day in the House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee, which took it up via voice vote. But a few aud­ible “ayes” could be heard from the Demo­crat­ic side. Mem­bers of Con­gress are on track to get a cost-of-liv­ing ad­just­ment each year, but Con­gress can tinker with the in­crease or block it al­to­geth­er. It has blocked it 11 times and al­lowed it 13 times since 1992. Mor­an’s pro­pos­al would have es­sen­tially re­struc­tured that cost-of-liv­ing in­crease so that mem­bers auto­mat­ic­ally get a hous­ing sti­pend. Mor­an be­lieves the idea would at­tract more can­did­ates who aren’t in­de­pend­ently wealthy. “The House is sup­posed to re­flect the people of this coun­try. Don’t we want it to make fin­an­cial sense for a thirtyso­mething phys­i­cian, dis­trict at­tor­ney, city-coun­cil mem­ber, or small-busi­ness own­er, who maybe has a new home mort­gage, young chil­dren, or un­paid stu­dent-loan debt, to serve in Con­gress?” he said. 

Elahe Iz­adi

 

Mur­murs

Pay Day Demo­crat­ic Reps. Debbie Wasser­man Schultz and Rosa De­Lauro cel­eb­rated Equal Pay Day at Hank’s Oyster Bar on Cap­it­ol Hill on Tues­day night, where wo­men re­ceived 23 per­cent off — a nod to the in­come dis­par­ity between men and wo­men. “Wo­men make 23 per­cent less than men, and, there­fore, right­fully should pay 23 per­cent less,” Wasser­man Schultz said. The Demo­crat­ic Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee chair-wo­man went on to praise her col­league De­Lauro as the “fore­moth­er” of the equal-pay move­ment. Both law­makers sipped glasses of the res­tau-rant’s daily punch — a mix­ture of bour­bon, cit­rus, and mint tea. “They told me I had to speak for my drink,” De­Lauro said, to laughter, dur­ing a brief speech.

Pic­ture This Pres­id­ent Obama got an ad­vance peek at the wa­ter­col­or por­traits un­veiled this week at the George W. Bush Pres­id­en­tial Lib­rary and Mu­seum, where the 43rd pres­id­ent showed off 30 por­traits he has done of world lead­ers from Vladi­mir Putin to his own fath­er, the 41st pres­id­ent. Obama got to see them last Decem­ber dur­ing the long flight to Nel­son Man­dela’s fu­ner­al in South Africa. This week, press sec­ret­ary Jay Car­ney, who covered Bush as a re­port­er, said Obama was “both sur­prised and im­pressed by the pur­suit that he’s taken up and the clear ded­ic­a­tion he has giv­en it.” Car­ney sidestepped when asked wheth­er Obama wants Bush to do his por­trait. “I think that would be up to Pres­id­ent Bush. I don’t think they had that dis­cus­sion.”

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