Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Congressional committee to consider tax breaks for mustaches...

The American Mustache institute earlier today made this surprising announcement:

After barnstorming the Nation's Capitol in support of the proposed Stache Act (details and white paper here), the office of of [sic] Maryland 6th district U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett informed the American Mustache Institute that the congressman has begun the process of ensuring the'Stache Act becomes law by passing the proposal to the House Ways and Means Committee for study — an essential first step for tax legislation.

The surprising thing is not that a congressman—Rep. Bartlett, a Republican—would support the creation of another tax loophole. "The Stache Act (Stimulus to Allow for Critical Hair Expenses) aims to earn a well-deserved $250 annual tax deduction for every Mustached American for expenditures on mustache grooming supplies," the website reads.

Instead, it was odd that Bartlett would even participate in what clearly seems to be an elaborate parody of Washington, D.C., think tanks and advocacy groups—and Congress. (The group is, after all, holding a rally on Capitol Hill on April 1.)

So I called Bartlett's office to see if something so silly could possibly be real. Sure enough, it is—but there's a wrinkle: Congressman Bartlett was never aware that the bill had been referred to the committee in his name.

"Congressman Bartlett has referred their proposal to the Ways and Means Committee, without commenting on the merit of the bill," Lisa Wright, Bartlett's press secretary, told me. The House Ways and Means Committee, Wright explained, has jurisdiction since the Stache Act is a tax bill.

Wright was then asked that since Bartlett referred the bill with comment, would she be able to comment on her boss's opinion of the proposed legislation. "Congressman Bartlett merely referred it without recommendation," Wright told me after a big pause.

Indeed, Wright conceded, when asked whether it's a waste of the congressman's time to be toying with legislative stunts like this one, that Bartlett actually knew nothing about the bill he supposedly had referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

"I did not raise it with him," Wright admitted. "Actually it's a staff referral . . . I did it, I referred it." When asked whether Congressman Bartlett knew about the referral, Wright sheepishly said, "I don't think I told him yet."

This sort of action, say staffers on the Hill, is almost unheard of "unless there is some sort of special relationship between the staffer and the boss, which it doesn't sound like there is in this case," a senior House aide says.