- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Animal house

She’s described as a younger, hipper version of Washington socialite Sally Quinn.

Now, New York Times rising reporter — and avid partyer — Jennifer 8. Leehas been slapped with a $60,000 lawsuit, filed in D.C. Superior Court yesterday by her former landlord, Beth Solomon, aWashington lobbyist.

The lawsuit accuses the oddly named scribe (she added the 8 as a teenager to grab name recognition) of trashing the $2,900-a-month Washington penthouse the newspaper rented for her on M Street overlooking Capitol Hill.

“Somebody has got to set a standard here, and I am not going to get pushed around by [Miss Lee] or the New York Times,” Miss Solomon told Inside the Beltway yesterday, adding that she has had to repair or replace floors, interior walls, appliances and broken furniture.

“And my baby grand piano, passed down in my family, was destroyed — they used it as a wet bar,” she said.

The 28-year-old Miss Lee’s “high-powered and occasionally raucous social circuit” caught the attention of the New York Sun in February, and the paper told of “brunches and barbecues, dinner parties and poker nights, holiday soirees and intimate concerts she hosts on a nearly weekly basis in her penthouse loft.”

The paper quoted Adam Kovacevich, former deputy press secretary for Sen. Joe Lieberman‘spresidential campaign, as saying: “Jenny is the Pamela Harriman and Katharine Graham for D.C.’s younger set.”

The lawsuit accuses that younger set — high-level congressional staffers to influential “newsmakers” — of defecating on the patio, relieving themselves off the balcony and vomiting in the hallways.

It goes so far as to name Miss Lee’s guests — from conservative activist Grover Norquist and MoveOn.org director Zach Exley to the Times’ managing editor, Jill Abramson.

“I have been in this ridiculous negotiation for five months,” Miss Solomon told us. “I have been trying to settle this quietly all this time, and getting nowhere.”

Miss Solomon said the reporter’s attorney, Larry Bank, who has handled legal affairs for the Times, offered as little as $15,000 to repair the damages and said “that’s all [Miss Lee] can come up with.”

“I said to my attorney, take that offer off the table,” she said. “You can walk on me just so far, and then I’m going to stand up for myself.”

Miss Solomon said that after she first encountered the “animal house,” she sat down with Miss Lee. “I said, ‘Jenny, do you have any sense what it feels like to have your home destroyed?’ And she just kind of looked at me with this sort of nonexpression.”

There was no reaction from Miss Lee, who has returned to New York City.

Grow up

Two of this country’s most respected elder statesmen — Republican David Abshire and Democrat Max Kampelman — are asking politicians to stop the name-calling and plain nastiness that permeated the campaign season and, in a phrase, to start behaving like grownups.

The pair of former ambassadors say civility and inclusiveness in public life is needed, or the nation will suffer. And they don’t stop with their plea.

They have formed the National Committee to Unite a Divided America, with a steering committee that includes such luminaries as former Sens. Bill Brock and Sam Nunn; former Defense Secretary Melvin Laird; former Ambassadors Jeane Kirkpatrick, Charles Manatt and Ed Ney; former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and former Clinton Chief of Staff Thomas F. “Mack” McLarty.

The first step of this bipartisan group was to draw up a Declaration on Civility and Inclusive Leadership, which has been signed by more than 100 leaders from all walks of life, ranging from university presidents and scholars to Wall Street titans and such former White House denizens as Michael Deaver, Edwin I. Meese III, Walter F. Mondale and Leon Panetta.

The committee is being run out of the offices of the bipartisan Center for the Study of the Presidency, which Mr. Abshire heads.

Its declaration, which begins with a reminder that our first president was a model of civility and inclusiveness, ends with a stern reminder to today’s political leaders that “they set the tone of our national discourse and set the example, for good or ill, which our young people will follow.”

To which we say: Amen.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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