John McCaslin

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!"


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."


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."

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

Be the first to read John McCaslin's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.