Capitol Hill reality check -- A look at ''The Distinguished Gentleman'''s real-life parallels to the Washington scene

The Distinguished Gentleman

Shifting from PACs to yuks, politico-turned-producer (he was a speechwriter for Walter Mondale) Marty Kaplan says everything in his current movie, The Distinguished Gentleman, is based on real Capitol Hill events, scams, or scandals — most of them legal. ”There is not a single point of congressional behavior that is not accurate,” Kaplan insists, as he explains below:

*MOVIE SCENE: Murphy misses the office lottery and gets a lousy work space. *WASHINGTON SCENE: ”There is a freshman lottery for offices, and the worst office in Congress is what we modeled our set on. The elevators don’t go to it because it used to be a storage attic.”

*MOVIE SCENE: Incumbent congressman Jeff Johnson (James Garner) confides that he’s going to retire because of the ”grandfather loophole.” *WASHINGTON SCENE: ”Contributors might not know it, but members of Congress first elected before 1980 get to keep all the money left over in their campaign funds when they retire.”

*MOVIE SCENE:: Murphy is out of the loop because he missed the seminar for freshman congressmen. *WASHINGTON SCENE: ”Every election year Harvard runs a seminar for new congressmen. They study policy papers, and experts give them briefings on topics that they’re going to face as new members.”

*MOVIE SCENE: A powerful lobbyist touts all the favors he has done for a corrupt congressman, including buying 10,000 copies of the pol’s autobiography and funding a voter registration campaign. *WASHINGTON SCENE: ”The book sales were based on Speaker of the House Jim Wright, who resigned in part because of the clamor about the sale of his autobiography. And Alan Cranston had a get-out-the-vote campaign, which was one issue related to his departure.”

*MOVIE SCENE: Murphy finds out that the Committee on Power and Industry is the ”honey pot,” the most desirable congressional committee on which to sit. *WASHINGTON SCENE: ”Though there’s no committee called Power and Industry, the committees people want to get on, like Appropriations or Energy and Commerce, are historically the committees that get the absolute highest PAC contributions.”

The Distinguished Gentleman
  • Movie