Animal house

John McCaslin
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Posted: Jan 27, 2005 12:00 AM

She's described as a younger, hipper version of Washington socialite Sally Quinn.

Now, New York Times rising reporter - and avid partyer - Jennifer 8. Lee has been slapped with a $60,000 lawsuit, filed in D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday by her former landlord, Beth Solomon, a Washington lobbyist.

The lawsuit accuses the oddly named scribe (she added the 8 as a teenager to grab name recognition) of trashing the $2,900-a-month Washington penthouse the newspaper rented for her on M Street overlooking Capitol Hill.

"Somebody has got to set a standard here, and I am not going to get pushed around by (Lee) or the New York Times," Solomon told The Beltway Beat, adding that she has had to repair or replace broken furniture, floors, interior walls and appliances.

"And my baby grand piano, passed down in my family, was destroyed - they used it as a wet bar," she said.

The 28-year-old Lee's "high-powered and occasionally raucous social circuit" caught the attention of the New York Sun in February, the paper telling of "brunches and barbecues, dinner parties and poker nights, holiday soirees and intimate concerts she hosts on a nearly weekly basis in her penthouse loft."

The paper quoted Adam Kovacevich, former deputy press secretary for Sen. Joe Lieberman's presidential campaign, as saying: "Jenny is the Pamela Harriman and Katharine Graham for D.C.'s younger set."

The lawsuit accuses that younger set - high-level congressional staffers to influential "newsmakers" - of defecating on the patio, relieving themselves off the balcony and vomiting in the hallways.

It goes so far as to name Lee's guests - from conservative activist Grover Norquist and MoveOn.org director Zach Exley to the Times' managing editor, Jill Abramson.

"I have been in this ridiculous negotiation for five months," Solomon told us. "I have been trying to settle this quietly all this time, and getting nowhere."

Solomon said the reporter's attorney, Larry Bank, who has handled legal affairs for the Times, offered as little as $15,000 to repair the damages and said "that's all (Lee) can come up with."

"I said to my attorney, take that offer off the table," she said. "You can walk on me just so far, and then I'm going to stand up for myself."

Solomon said that after she first encountered the "animal house," she sat down with Lee. "I said, 'Jenny, do you have any sense what it feels like to have your home destroyed?' And she just kind of looked at me with this sort of nonexpression."

There was no reaction from Lee, who has returned to New York City.

GROW UP

Two of this country's most respected elder statesmen - Republican David Abshire and Democrat Max Kampelman - are asking politicians to stop the name-calling and plain nastiness that permeated the campaign season and, in a phrase, to start behaving like grownups.

The pair of former ambassadors say civility and inclusiveness in public life is needed, or the nation will suffer. And they don't stop with their plea.

They have formed the National Committee to Unite a Divided America, with a steering committee that includes such luminaries as former Sens. Bill Brock and Sam Nunn; former Defense Secretary Melvin Laird; former Ambassadors Jeane Kirkpatrick, Charles Manatt and Ed Ney; former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and former Clinton Chief of Staff Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty.

The first step of this bipartisan group was to draw up a Declaration on Civility and Inclusive Leadership, which has been signed by more than 100 leaders from all walks of life, ranging from university presidents and scholars to Wall Street titans and such former White House denizens as Michael Deaver, Edwin I. Meese III, Walter F. Mondale and Leon Panetta.

The committee is being run out of the offices of the bipartisan Center for the Study of the Presidency, which Abshire heads.

Its declaration, which begins with a reminder that our first president was a model of civility and inclusiveness, ends with a stern reminder to today's political leaders that "they set the tone of our national discourse and set the example, for good or ill, which our young people will follow."

To which we say: Amen.

TOM IN THE MIDDLE

Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle is scheduled to surface Friday evening in New York City, reflecting on the disappointing 2004 election as well as his party's - and no doubt President Bush's - "progressive" agenda in 2005.

"One year in one hour with . . . Sen. Tom Daschle," is how the event is being touted by the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, a nonpartisan bunch "dedicated to challenging the tired orthodoxies of both the right and the left."

CONSERVATIVE HUDDLE

Tired orthodoxy or not, Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, will convene his caucus of 100 House conservatives at a two-day retreat scheduled for Feb. 3-5 in Baltimore.

Among those attending: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas and former Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas.

"The Conservative Members Retreat brings the best minds in the conservative movement in America together with conservative leaders in Congress," says Pence. "The number of members making it a priority shows that freshman and veteran conservatives alike understand this retreat will be the number one conservative strategy huddle all year."

SCAIFE GIFT

Richard Scaife, the billionaire owner of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, whom former House Speaker Newt Gingrich credits for laying the foundation - monetarily speaking - of modern conservatism, has donated $1 million to the Catholic Relief Services' efforts in tsunami-ravaged South Asia.

We're told that Scaife and his wife, Ritchie, were at their "Wit's End" home in Pebble Beach last week when a family aide presented the gift to Pittsburgh Catholic Bishop Donald W. Wuerl.

The couple had been scheduled to fly in their personal DC-9 jet to Washington on Saturday for the annual Alfalfa Club dinner of political and business leaders, but the pilot grounded the flight because of the snowy weather in the nation's capital.

As he does every year, Scaife was to attend the dinner with former Ambassador David Abshire, while his wife made reservations to dine at the Four Seasons Hotel, as she does every year, with longtime friend Patricia Carlson (wife of former Ambassador Dick Carlson), who was maid of honor at the Scaife wedding years ago.

LOST AND FOUND

National Geographic fellow and archaeologist Fredrik T. Hiebert will report to the society's Washington headquarters next month on the recovery of the "lost" treasures from Afghanistan's Kabul Museum.

Or perhaps we should say "feared lost" during the country's political and military upheaval.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai surprised the world in 2003 by announcing that the museum's 20,000-piece "Bactrian Gold" collection - dating from the Silk Road era - was discovered intact.

Hiebert recently was invited by the Afghan government to conduct a full assessment of the collection, and in doing so, National Geographic reports, discovered artifacts from other collections previously thought lost.

TURKEYS AND COWARDS

It was on this winter day of Jan. 26, 1784, that Benjamin Franklin, while visiting France, penned a rather humorous letter to his daughter about why the turkey - not the eagle - should symbolize America.

"For my own part I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen the representative of our country," Franklin began. "He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead tree near the river, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing hawk; and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to his nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the bald eagle pursues him and takes it from him. . . .

"Besides he is a rank coward: The little king bird not bigger than a sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the king birds from our country."