John McCaslin

That was Malachy McCourt, author, actor and most recently Green Party gubernatorial candidate in New York, recalling a humorous bit of irony surrounding embattled New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who is expected to leave office Monday.

During a private conversation Wednesday at the American Ireland Fund Dinner in Washington, Mr. McCourt recalled that when he faced Mr. Spitzer in the 2006 election, he proposed New York drop its nickname "the Empire State" because empires require emperors and Mr. Spitzer already was acting too much like one.

Sure enough, Mr. McCourt now notes, the name of the governor's escort service was the "The Emperor's Club."

No hanky panky

Remember attempts last month to link Sen. John McCain with Washington lobbyist Vicki Iseman?

To help substantiate the suggestions of hanky panky, it was reported by certain news outlets that Miss Iseman had arranged for the Arizona Republican in 1999 to write a pair of "controversial" letters to the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of broadcaster Lowell "Bud" Paxson in his quest to acquire a Pittsburgh television interest.

Since then, Inside the Beltway has done some checking and found that letters like the two Mr. McCain wrote to the FCC are far from unusual in the world of politics. In fact, several thousand letters are sent by Capitol Hill lawmakers every year to the FCC, more than 2,500 of them in 2007.

"They arrive daily," says one FCC source.

Furthermore, we discovered that New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is one of the more frequent letter writers to the FCC, inquiring as Mr. McCain has about various proceedings pending before the commission. In fact, we copied four such letters Mrs. Clinton sent recently, one dated Feb. 12 that reads as if she and Mr. McCain were copying language from the same form letter.

Case in point: In one of the letters that came under the microscope, Mr. McCain wrote to the FCC in 1999: "The sole purpose of this request is to secure final action on a matter that has now been pending for over two years. I emphasize that my purpose is not to suggest in any way how you should vote — merely that you vote."

Here's what Mrs. Clinton wrote to the FCC last month: "As these applications have been pending for over two years and one year respectively, we would like the FCC to provide us with a status report."

Given it's an election year, we don't want to leave Illinois Sen. Barack Obama out of the mix, either. We copied two letters that he sent recently to the FCC inquiring, like his two opponents, about pending votes and other related matters.

When in Rome

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 .

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