From Roll Call:
The pre-election recess has slowed the rhythms of Capitol Hill in so many of the usual ways. With lawmakers out of town, there are far fewer late nights; those staffers who haven’t been temporarily furloughed — so they can set off to campaign for their bosses back home — are catching up on constituent mail or preparing their strategies for the lame duck, but they’re generally turning off the office lights in time to get to happy hour.
And that’s when things are getting unusual. The quiet corridors, especially on the House side, have become venues of opportunity for petty thieves and burglars.
The congressional crime wave that first crested early summer had seemed to subside during the August recess — even though the Capitol Police have not arrested anyone. But at least three robberies have been reported, all in the Rayburn Building, in the past month.
“It’s one thing to have your office broken into. It’s another thing to have your office broken into after this has been ‘business as usual’ for a long time,” said the most recent victim, retiring Republican Elton Gallegly of California, whose third-floor suite was raided last weekend.
Desks were ransacked and knickknacks with congressional seals or logos were filched, but the most valuable thing stolen was the congressman’s 26-year-old collection of license plates from across every country.
That fits the pattern of the other robberies; the stolen items have been almost exclusively congressional swag, political artifacts and personal mementos. (Another retiring California Republican, Jerry Lewis, lost a collection of Easter eggs signed by first ladies.) And in almost no cases have the doors been forced open — clearly pointing to an inside job by people (contractors, cleaning crews) with access to the congressional master keys, and no apparent fear of all the cameras monitoring the hallways. (Solving the case “remains one of our highest priorities at this time,” the House Sergeant-at-Arms office said in a statement yesterday.)