Buy asparagus

John McCaslin
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Posted: Jun 24, 2004 12:00 AM

We first became familiar with health industries mogul Terry Lierman five years ago when he forked over a generous $25,000 open-ended loan to Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat.

The only trouble was that at the time, Lierman was lobbying Congress on behalf of pharmaceutical giant Schering-Plough Corp., which wished to retain its monopoly on the popular allergy drug Claritin.

Moran, to continue our story, was co-sponsor of a bill supporting Schering-Plough, even writing a letter to fellow Democrats enlisting their support.

When 2000 came around, Lierman was himself a candidate for Congress, narrowly losing his bid to unseat then-Rep. Constance A. Morella, Maryland Republican.

Fast forward to last August, when friends arranged for the 55-year-old Lierman to meet with an enthusiastic Democratic presidential aspirant - former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean - at Washington's Union Station. Soon, Lierman became the Dean campaign's national finance co-chairman, helping to raise an impressive $40 million in only a few months' time.

But that was then, and this is now, and in recent days, Lierman was spotted by The Beltway Beat aboard a train bound for Machu Picchu in Peru.

"I am here looking for what to do next," he was overheard telling one passenger.

At which point he turned to a Peruvian and asked how one should invest in Peru.

"How much money?" asked the Peruvian.

"You name the amount," said Lierman.

"Asparagus," the Peruvian said.

"Asparagus?" said the astonished Lierman. "That's a crop!"

PASS THE KERRY

Even foreign leaders visiting Washington know the health benefits of ketchup in the presidential campaign of Democratic Sen. John Kerry, husband of Teresa Heinz Kerry, heiress to the family's $500 million tomato fortune.

Handing a bottle of Heinz ketchup to a European colleague at the Old Ebbitt Grill near the White House this week, a foreign leader, who won't let us identify him, remarked: "Here, have some of Kerry's finest."

NUTTY DEMOCRATS

En route to a campaign rally in Springfield, Mo., this week, Vice President Dick Cheney had his motorcade pull over at one of Johnny Morris' Bass Pro Shops.

"We had a little extra time on our hands, and I couldn't go by Bass Pro Shops without stopping," the vice president explained. "I'm on their [mailing] list, and they've got a lot of my money."

As Cheney was browsing through the fishing tackle, a young man came up and asked to have his picture taken with him.

"Sure," Cheney replied.

After the photo was snapped, the man said: "My dad is a Democrat, and this picture is going to drive him nuts."

"That's nothing," Cheney replied. "Wait till you see what we're going to do to John Kerry on November 2."

REAGAN DOLLAR

Much reaction to our item on Democrats demanding that the images of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Fitzgerald Kennedy not be removed from either the dime or half-dollar, which has been proposed as a tribute to the late President Ronald Reagan.

Democrats for America's Future is voicing concern to U.S. Mint Director Henrietta Holsman Fore and four key senators - Republicans Sam Brownback of Kansas, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Ted Stevens of Alaska - who were appointed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, to report back by mid-July on specific recommendations for a Reagan commemoration.

Calling Roosevelt and Kennedy two of history's most revered Democrats, DAF Executive Director Jennifer Petty said it's simply not necessary "to trash the memories of FDR and JFK to honor Ronald Reagan."

Washington lawyer Chris Horner says Petty's remark "implies that in putting JFK and FDR on coins within a year of their death, the Democrats also 'trashed the names' of Benjamin Franklin - half dollar, 1964 - and 'the representation of Liberty,' which was on the dime until 1946. I wonder if they said so at the time?"

Says Roger Johnson of Kensington: "Democrats are probably right that the likenesses of Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy should be retained on the dime and half-dollar, respectively. Perhaps if Ronald Reagan's image were put on a $1 coin, people might actually start to use it."

BUBBA'S BIBLE

"At 957 pages, it will take you most of your life to read it."

 - Gordon Peterson of WUSA-TV, the "dean of anchors" to many Washingtonians, commenting on Bill Clinton's just-released memoir, "My Life."

BUBBA AND BUGS

Rep. Michael C. Burgess, Texas Republican, doesn't like the high prices he's paying at the gasoline pump, and he's blaming former President Bill Clinton.

Nearly 10 years ago, during the 104th Congress, H.R. 2491, which was passed, would have allowed oil exploration in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR. "Unfortunately, in 1995, that legislation was vetoed by then-President Clinton," recalls Burgess, who, unlike the former president, actually paid a visit to ANWR.

"The vast coastal plain is unsuitable for habitation during the summer months because of its marshy consistency," the congressman insists.

But what about all those gregarious deer we keep hearing about?

"Any caribou unlucky enough to calve in this region would likely die from exsanguination at the hands of the mosquitoes there," Burgess says.

NEVER COULD SEE

If you've wondered all these years whether government officials were seeing straight, you weren't seeing things.

Congress yesterday unanimously approved legislation introduced by Rep. Jo Ann Davis, Virginia Republican and chairman of the subcommittee on Civil Service and Agency Organization, requiring the Office of Personnel Management to present options under which vision insurance benefits finally could be made available to federal employees.

The benefits, which also would cover federal retirees, would include dental.

NOW HEAR THIS

Tens of millions of practicing Catholics in America have the blessings of their bishops to make political waves.

Analyzing last week's statement issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Catholics in Political Life," Catholic League President William Donohue says the bishops spoke with "convincing clarity" on the subject of politics and religion.

The bishops, he says, note correctly that the separation of church and state "does not require division between belief and public action, between moral principles and political choices, but protects the right of believers and religious groups to practice their faith and act on their values in public life."

 "Not only is the bishops' ruling cogently written and without a single flaw," Donohue says, it "should be widely disseminated to public officials and the law schools."

GO FIGURE

Department of Defense data reveal that the program to clean up unexploded ordnance on formerly used military sites in this country will take as many as 252 years.

Counting forward, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Oregon Democrat, says that unless more money and manpower are spent to clean up the sites, Congress will be appropriating money to deal with the problem until the year 2255.

ONE MORE FOR THE GIPPER

In observing the 20th anniversary of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, praise is being heaped again on former President Ronald Reagan.

Republican Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. was one of the first lawmakers to actively begin working on missing children issues after his Florida constituents, John and Reve Walsh, endured the 1981 abduction and murder of their son, Adam.

But it was under Reagan's leadership that NCMEC was established as the national clearinghouse for information on missing children and the prevention of child victimization, Shaw notes.

Reagan officially opened NCMEC in a White House ceremony during a time when there was little coordination among the 50 states and 18,000 law-enforcement agencies. Today, more than 94 percent of children who are reported as missing are recovered safely.

DANDY RANDY

The House has taken time out from the war against terrorism to recognize the oldest pitcher in major league baseball history to throw a perfect game.

In passing a resolution in his honor, one congressman after another congratulated 40-year-old Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitching a perfect game May 18, retiring all 27 Atlanta Braves he faced.

In fact, Atlanta fans gave the 6-foot-10-inch Johnson numerous standing ovations, chanting his name as he annihilated their team player-by-player. The radar gun on his very last pitch - his 117th of the night - clocked it at "a shocking 98 miles an hour," observes Rep. John Shadegg, Arizona Republican.

Johnson grew up in Livermore, Calif., where his father, Bud, was a police officer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. As a boy, Randy would practice pitching against a garage door, throwing the ball so hard it would pop nails loose from the wood siding.

 "After he was done, his father would proudly come up to him and hand him a hammer and tell him to go put the nails back into the wall," says the congressman.