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Clout: Law tells conventioneers to get the fork out

THE CORPORATIONS that used to finance nonstop partying at the national political conventions face a new hurdle this time around. A new law prohibits lobbyists from buying meals for members of Congress - leading to some odd party-planning.

THE CORPORATIONS that used to finance nonstop partying at the national political conventions face a new hurdle this time around. A new law prohibits lobbyists from buying meals for members of Congress - leading to some odd party-planning.

One tactic - don't provide chairs. People don't eat "meals" standing up. Another tactic - no forks, just finger food.

Gov. Rendell told reporters yesterday that he can live with the restrictions.

"We never had forks at the convention," he said. "I've been to every convention since 1980 and I've never seen a fork."

Rendell turned to state Sen. Vince Fumo and said, "You've been to many conventions. Have you ever seen a fork?"

Fumo laughed and said: "No. I think they'd stab each other with them."

Rendell replied: "If they don't allow forks on airplanes anymore, they shouldn't allow them on the floor of the Democratic convention."

The Democrats begin their quadrennial confab Monday in Denver.

Leaving City Hall

Mayor Nutter's deputy chief of staff, Wendell Pritchett, is paying his own way to the Democratic National Convention and he's not coming back. At least, not to a City Hall job.

Pritchett is returning to his law- professor gig at the University of Pennsylvania. He plans to continue serving on the boards of the Redevelopment Authority, the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation and the advisory board to the Mayor's Office of Community Services. And he will continue to advise the mayor on issues like housing.

"I came to help the mayor get started and put together the mayor's team," Pritchett said. "I have my own career. I didn't want to leave that either."

In another personnel move, Ron Cuie, director of the Mayor's Office for the Re-Entry of Ex-Offenders, has been reassigned as a special assistant to Everett Gillison, deputy mayor for public safety.

Cuie drew headlines when appointed last March. After serving as a deputy mayor for Rendell and a deputy managing director for former Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr., he spent three years in prison for robbery and aggravated assault.

Gillison said that Cuie will still work on re-entry issues but focus on policy and research, not management. He'll keep the same salary - $87,500 a year.

Mariano and the pretzelman

Lester Hall used to bake and sell soft pretzels at his home in Northwood, until he lost a zoning battle with City Councilman Rick Mariano and the Northwood Civic Association.

Hall has since retired to Tucson, Ariz., where he now bakes pretzels only for family and friends. But he followed the corruption case that sent Mariano to the federal prison in Fort Dix and he feels sorry for the former councilman.

Hall wrote to Mariano in prison and they became pen pals. Hall's latest missive is a nine-page proposal to the U.S. Justice Department saying that Mariano should go free because his prison sentence is too long, he has bad knees and diabetes, he's worked hard behind bars as an electrician and he's taken responsibility for his crimes.

But he hasn't mailed it yet. Hall is waiting for a go-ahead from Mariano.

"I don't want to go against his wishes," Hall said. "After all, it's his life, not mine."

Raining on Barack's parade

Barack Obama's presidential campaign has faced so many false rumors about his family history that it has put his birth certificate on the Internet: he was born in Honolulu, nearly two years after Hawaii became a state, making Obama a U.S. citizen by birth.

But that hasn't stopped Montgomery County lawyer Philip J. Berg from challenging Obama's qualifications to be president.

Berg, a Hillary Clinton supporter, announced he's filing a federal lawsuit today, claiming that Obama lost his citizenship when his mother relocated the family to Indonesia when Barack was a boy.

Under the law, however, moving to a foreign country does not negate an American's citizenship.

Berg said that he's acting on his own, not as an agent for the Clinton campaign. Republicans were prepared to file a similar lawsuit after the Democratic convention, he said.

Eddie in dreamland

Gov. Rendell told reporters this week that he'd had a dream and shared it with Hillary Clinton (and don't even go there!)

Rendell said he dreamed of being in the Rose Garden watching President Obama sign a universal-health-care bill into law, and the bill's prime sponsor was Sen. Clinton.

He later told Clinton about the dream and asked, "That doesn't sound so bad, does it?" According to Rendell, she responded, "Not at all." (Rendell also noted that it's a "sad commentary" on his life that this is the stuff he dreams about.)


Clout spotted a black Chevy Tahoe parked outside City Hall with the following vanity plate: CMNIC8R.

We tracked down the owner - Mayor Nutter's chief spokesman, Doug Oliver. He said he's had the plate for several years, going back to his time as spokesman for the Philadelphia Gas Works.

"Sometimes people will pull up and ask me what it spells, which makes me think I'm not the best communicator," Oliver said. *

Daily News reporters Catherine Lucey, Chris Brennan, John Baer, Michael Hinkelman and Bob Warner contributed to this report.