- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 17, 2000

Hillary Clinton's campaign tipping gaffe the first lady stiffed a waitress after eating breakfast in a New York diner has made headlines across the country. But Washington, D.C., waitresses and bartenders say cheapskate politicians are nothing new.

"They don't tip just like Hillary Clinton," joked one waitress at the National Democratic Club, who has worked there for more than 10 years. She has seen politicos come and go over the years, but the new Democrats seem to be especially cheap.

"The ones lately don't tip at all," she said, not willing to divulge any names or anecdotes. "I still have to work here."

Of course, the Democrats aren't the only ones with a tight grip on their wallets. Republicans at the Capitol Hill Club aren't famous for their generosity either.

"They're stingy. They're Republicans. They don't tip nothing," said one waitress, who has been around the First Street establishment for more than a decade.

At other Capitol-area establishments, like the Capitol Grille and Bullfeathers, staffers refused to talk about political clientele they are very aware of who butters their bread. Serving the nation's power brokers involves discretion all around, say servers.

"One day a congressman will come in with a National Rifle Association leader," said Howard Greenberg, a bartender at the cozy Dubliner. "The next day that same congressman will come in with a human rights activist. They expect us to be discreet about what we see."

And not all pols are skinflints, according to Deborah Kearney of Legal Seafood, a restaurant that is often frequented by members of Congress. "They have got the drill down," she said. "They tip an average of 15 to 20 percent and often more. These are people in the public eye, so I would suspect that they are a lot more careful."

Mr. Greenberg agreed. "They have learned over the years," he said, "especially the Hill staffers."

Colm Dillon, general manager of the Dubliner, called his Washington patrons some of the "most sophisticated" in the country.

"They are educated and well-traveled," he said. "They know how to treat wait staff and know when 20 to 25 percent is appropriate."

Mr. Dillon said he has served Mrs. Clinton at his restaurant and is skeptical about the tipping story dogging the first lady's Senate race in New York. "She has always been very generous," he said. "I am sure there is more to the story."

Besides, when it comes to poor tippers, according to some Washington servers, politicians still take a back seat to the most notorious cheapskates in town: lawyers and journalists.

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