Senator slams Backstreet Boy's lobbying. Ohio Senator George Voinovich dismisses Kevin Richardson and other celebrities who testify at Capitol Hill hearings as uninformed publicity seekers

Such celebrities as Julia Roberts, Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali, and Christie Brinkley have lobbied Congress on various issues over the last few weeks, and Senator Goerge Voinovich (R-Ohio) has apparently had enough. The last straw for him was Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson, who is scheduled to testify Thursday against mountaintop removal mining, a practice he says is hurting the environment in his home state of Kentucky. ”It’s just a joke to think that this witness can provide members of the United States Senate with information on important geological and water quality issues,” Voinovich told the Associated Press. ”We’re either serious about the issues or we’re running a sideshow.”

Richardson, who heads an environmental group called Just Within Reach, was invited to testify by Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.). ”He has his own environmental advocacy group,” said a Lieberman spokesman. ”He has credibility on this issue. We believe that his voice is one that the committee should hear.” But Voinovich dismissed his credentials, suggesting that the only time stars should talk to Congress is on issues where they have direct expertise, citing the visits of musicians like Don Henley and Alanis Morissette to Capitol Hill last fall to testify about laws they felt unfairly favored record labels at the expense of artists. ”Certainly, members of the entertainment community have expertise on many issues that are important for Congress to consider,” Voinovich said. ”This isn’t a case like that.”