Pain in the ash, take II

Feb 15, 2007 9:55am

Last Wednesday, in the House Longworth Office Building, Congressman Keith Ellison, D-Minn., called the cops on Congressman Tom Tancredo, R-Colorado.

Ellison, the House’s first Muslim member, drew headlines last month when he took his ceremonial oath of office using Thomas Jefferson’s Koran (FREE VIDEO OF OUR GMA REPORT ON THAT HERE). Tancredo, a presidential aspirant, draws headlines for his aggressive attitude towards illegal immigration (YOUTUBE VIDEO OF OUR NIGHTLINE REPORT ON ONE ANGLE OF THAT HERE).

But this incident had nothing to do with either religion or immigration.

It had to do with smoking.

For the past eight years, Tancredo has enjoyed a cigar roughly once every other week, according to his spokesman Carlos Espinosa. Tancredo isn’t particularly a cigar aficianado — he smokes "whatever’s on special at THOMPSON CIGAR ONLINE."

"We understand some people don’t like the smell," Espinosa says. "Tom opens up the windows in his office. He has three air purifiers in his office."

That was not apparently enough for Ellison, as first reported by The Hill. Last Wednesday, as Tancredo was entering an elevator, a female Capitol Hill police officer stopped him and told him his next-door neighbor in Longworth had called them to complain about the smell.

"She said, ‘Sorry, congressman, I wanted to let you know we got some complaints from your neighbor.’" Espinosa says. "She seemed kind of embarrassed about it, but she said she had to make sure this was not a fire incident." The officer then proceeded to Tancredo’s office to check things out.

Members of Congress are allowed to smoke in their offices, as evidence by the ashtray aroma outside the Barclay-suffused Capitol Hill office of House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, though last month — AS YOU MAY RECALL House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., banned smoking from the Speaker’s lobby.

Espinosa points out that during Ellison’s Koran controversy, Tancredo supported Ellison’s right to use the Koran "to make oath more authentic. That’s the funniest thing about this, for a guy who’s asked the entire Congress to accommodate him on the Koran, we expect a little leeway back for Tancredo’s cigars. But he didn’t even pay Tom the courtesy of coming to the office and talking to him himself, he just called the cops."

We’re awaiting response from Ellison’s office.

– jpt

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