Sometimes the guest list is what sets one party apart from all the others. That was certainly the case with the late-night inaugural soiree hosted Saturday at the Madison Hotel by six Washingtonians who have infinite connections and influence: Ann and Vernon Jordan, Buffy and Bill Cafritz, and Vicki and Roger Sant. The Jordans and Cafritzes hosted a similar party four years ago, and it was the first glimpse anyone in Washington got of the Obama inner circle, in particular presidential senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and then-Social Secretary Desirée Rogers.
With a second inauguration, that curiosity factor is gone. This time around, in a room where just about every guest was connected in one way or another, it was interesting to see actress Ashley Judd, who arrived with her friend Mark Ein. Attending this particular party was as much as saying that yes, she is serious about running for the Senate in Kentucky. So far she’s said she’s taking a look, but there were people at the party (not the least of them Jordan) who can help her get from a Hollywood acting career to a Washington political role.
There was no shortage of politicos to help power the festivities at the 2013 Green Inaugural Ball. And you know what kind of event and crowd you have collected when Bill Nye the Science Guy gets as loud a reception as Will.i.am. The environmentally conscious partygoers who packed every floor of the Newseum in search of something more meaningful than just another glass of Champagne were rewarded when Vice President Joe Biden appeared for a brief visit. He received loud ovations when he told the crowd that dealing with climate change would be a priority for the Obama administration’s second term.
Throughout the evening, conversations were just as likely to be about fighting global warming as about who made the gown someone was wearing. Those who came for the party and not the politics were not disappointed in the least. Revelers were seen taking advantage of the Newseum’s photo booths and staging their own faux news reports at the NBC News Interactive Newsroom (because nothing says reporting live from a fake hurricane like doing so in a tuxedo or a ball gown).
The journey from the lower level to the VIP suites up top was all the more enjoyable because each of the three main glass elevators featured its own bar. The signature cocktail of the evening was the OM-bama, a sweet and dangerous drink that packed a lot of flavor and punch into the mini Mason jars it was served in. The culinary offerings made a pitch to be more memorable than the celebs who took the stage. The menu was overseen by the crew from the Source, Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant within the Newseum itself. That restaurant’s signature Kobe beef sliders and sesame miso cones with Carolina yellowfin tuna tartar paired nicely with sushi rolls, butternut squash soup shooters, and a host of other passed hors d’oeuvres. Those in the main VIP lounge were treated to a delicious raw bar of sustainable seafood, courtesy of Choptank Oyster Company in Cambridge, Maryland. Piles of lobsters, crabs, clams, and oysters were on offer, and guests took a load off on custom benches made from recycled wood and the doors from pickup truck beds.
“It is the unbridled spirit that makes this event so spectacular,” said Winn F. Williams, president of the Kentucky Society of Washington. Perhaps that's why the Kentucky Bluegrass Ball was named Washington Post’s editor’s pick for the third time in a row this year.
It could also be the bourbon. With Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Bulleit, Four Roses, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, and Heaven Hill (all members of the Kentucky Distiller’s Association) available, the atmosphere was lively during the cocktail hour in the Marriott Wardman Park. At 8, the 850-plus guests began trickling into the main ballroom, as the Letcher County Central High School Band, who will be marching in the inaugural parade, played “My Old Kentucky Home.” Phyllis George, former First Lady of Kentucky and Miss America, and her daughter Pamela Brown of ABC7/WJLA-TV, emceed the event and started the night out by inviting current Miss Kentucky, Jessica Casebolt, to the stage in her Kentucky-blue gown to sing the national anthem.
Chef Edward Lee, winner of Iron Chef and contestant on Top Chef, prepared the menu of Henry Bibb salad, braised and fried boneless beef short ribs, and chess pie. During the dinner, some guests were seen perusing the cocktail space for leftover bottles of bourbon, though with no luck.
Spotted among the crowd were Ashley Judd, Governor Steve Beshear, and representatives John Yarmouth, Andy Barr, Thomas Massie, and Brett Guthrie. We also got to talk with Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson, who was wearing a very fetching shirt with fluer-de-lis buttons to represent his city of Louisville. He told us he doesn’t have a favorite bourbon, but he takes his with a splash of water.
Illinois, the state that first sent Barack Obama to Washington, celebrated his second inaugural Saturday night at the Marriott Renaissance downtown. On hand for the Illinois State Society gala were Chicago mayor and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, congressman Aaron Schock (who serves as the society's president), representative Tammy Duckworth, and former White House chief of staff Bill Daley.
The walls of the hotel's large ballroom were transformed into a silhouette of the Chicago skyline. And portraits of former Illinois governors ringed the reception hall where guests bid on silent auction items, including a framed photograph of President Obama greeting the 2010 National Hockey League champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, at the White House.
Perhaps in keeping with these austere times, food and drink were modest in proportion and ambition. While guests mingled and munched on mini mushroom quiches and hummus, First Lady Michelle Obama was across the street at DC's convention center, participating in a concert for military families featuring Usher and Katy Perry. At the gala, guests were invited to sign a large banner offering well wishes to military service members.
How much transition is there for an incumbent President who has been reelected? After all, he’s already there, his staff is essentially in place, and he knows his way around the White House. In terms of process and basics, how does the first term differ from the second, and is there anything similar to the honeymoon accorded a first-term President?
We took these questions and more to Martha Joynt Kumar, a professor of political science at Towson State University. She is a presidency scholar who focuses in particular on the issues of transition, as well as the relationship between administration officials and the White House press corps*. She is currently working on a new book, Mapping the Glide Path to Power: The 2008-2009 Presidential Transition.
American billionaires are getting richer. In its new list of the richest American billionaires, Forbes notes that the dozen on the magazine’s cover, including Washington’s David Rubenstein and Steve Case, are worth a combined $126 billion. The combined net worth of the 400 Americans who make up the full list is $1.7 trillion. Furthermore, back when the list started in 1982, the cutoff for the list was a net worth of $75 million. Now it’s $1.1 billion.
Though K Street is known as the hub of Washington’s influence industry, few major lobby shops actually reside along the famous power corridor anymore. That’s nothing new—many law and lobbying firms moved to DC’s West End in the 1980s. Later that decade and into the ’90s, they began venturing to Pennsylvania Avenue near Metro Center. As the lobbying industry grew, so did its real-estate needs, and there was only so much room on K Street. “There was no place else to go,” says Jay Epstien, chair of the US real-estate practice at DLA Piper, who has represented numerous firms in leasing new space. In fact, of the ten highest-earning lobbying firms in Washington, shown here, only one has a K Street address.
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This article appears in the September 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.
The Supreme Court recently wrapped up a monumental term, and the lawyers at the helm of the year’s highest-profile cases were, of course, solicitor general Donald Verrilli and conservative wunderkind Paul Clement. But they were in good company. Here’s a look at the stars of the term.
In both the Arizona and health-care cases, the soft-spoken Verrilli faced off against Clement, widely considered by his peers to be one of the most skilled oral advocates of the Supreme Court bar. Though he didn’t win either case, Clement—solicitor general during the George W. Bush administration and now a partner at Bancroft—has cemented his position as the Republican Party’s preeminent lawyer.
The head of Akin Gump’s Supreme Court practice delivered her 31st argument before the justices, making her the only woman in history to log that many at the high court. She broke the record—previously held by Arnold & Porter’s Lisa Blatt—in April, in a case concerning government land intended to be used for an Indian tribe’s casino. Millett lost the case 8-1 but won a place in history.
No lawyer currently in private practice has argued more times at the Supreme Court than Phillips, and he had his best term yet. He hit two milestones in March when he argued his 75th case before the justices and on the same day moved for the admission of his daughter, Latham & Watkins associate Jessica Phillips, into the Supreme Court Bar. “It doesn’t get any better than that,” says Phillips. “It did make the 75th argument kind of anticlimactic.” Phillips hit argument number 76 later in the term.
Though Goldstein argued two cases at the high court, it wasn’t his work as a lawyer that made this such an exceptional term for him. The Goldstein & Russell name partner’s other enterprise—SCOTUSblog, a website devoted to coverage of the court—had a record-shattering term, thanks to the health-care reform case. Goldstein and his team became the go-to source during decision days, live-blogging the action as the justices announced their rulings. On the June morning the health-care ruling came down, roughly a million readers tuned in to the site’s live feed. By day’s end, SCOTUSblog had 5.3 million visits. “This certainly isn’t anything we could have dreamed of,” says Goldstein, who started SCOTUSblog with his wife, lawyer Amy Howe, a decade ago.
Though President Obama’s solicitor general faced withering reviews from many court-watchers following his shaky performance in the case to determine whether the Affordable Care Act was constitutional, he came out on top when the justices voted 5-4 to uphold Obama’s health-care reform bill. And in the court’s other blockbuster case, over Arizona’s controversial immigration law, he also emerged largely victorious. What could have been a disastrous term for Verrilli turned out to be a landmark year in his career.
This article appears in the August 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.
He’s the longest-serving councillor, its most prolific fundraiser, represents the District’s most affluent areas, is a darling of the business community, and has a relatively* clean image ethically—in short, Jack Evans seems like he’d have it made in a citywide bid for mayor. Except that he’s got one minor electoral flaw: He’s white.
Nevertheless, with DC Mayor Vince Gray on the ropes, the Ward 2 councillor sees a narrow window that might just allow him to sneak through to the Promised Land and, as the Chocolate City becomes ever less chocolate, deliver the first white mayor to the Wilson Building since Home Rule. It would require an alignment of the fates in the following manner:
His best (and probably only) path to victory is a special election, which is a free-for-all not tied to party affiliation. Independents and Republicans could vote along with the huge Democratic majority, giving Evans a wider pool from which to draw votes.