Inviting stars to testify at your hearing is a time-honored way of grabbing extra media attention on Capitol Hill. But one senator is tired of the practice and took a stand against it last week - attracting so much attention to an otherwise under-the-radar subcommittee hearing that you might have thought the Beatles had reunited.
Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson was a last-minute addition to the Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing on coal-mining mountaintop removal. Because he was to testify on a relatively unsexy topic (and because the B-Boys are, like, so 1999), Richardson's addition did little to rouse a disinterested press.
But on the morning of the hearing, Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) had the good sense to publicly denounce Richardson's appearance as a cheap PR stunt. "It's just a joke to think that this witness can provide members of the US Senate with information on important geological and water-quality issues. Hence he would boycott the hearing.
A senator publicly ridiculing a pop star? Believe it or not, this caught the media's attention. Or to be more specific, the LA Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, every darn wire service that had a reporter within earshot, and Conan O'Brien, all of whom gave at least a side mention to the topic of coal-mining mountaintop removal.
Well done, Senator. Well done indeed.