Panettiere Backs DC Voting Rights
||Thursday, February 11, 2010
A two-year-old public service announcement featuring actress Hayden Panettiere supporting D.C. voting rights is getting new life on local television.
The "Think Inside the Box" campaign, shot in 2008, is now airing on Comcast cable — as opposed to the public access station it aired on before. In the ad, Panettiere tells Washingtonians to "be a hero" — a play on her TV show "Heroes" — by checking a box on their income tax forms and contributing to the D.C. statehood fund. The money supports D.C. shadow Sen. Paul Strauss, whose job is to lobby the House and Senate as a symbolic senator for the District.
Why this young actress from California is concerned about the voting rights of Washingtonians is a matter of happenstance.
Strauss told POLITICO he met Panettiere while they were waiting in a holding room at American University to meet then-Democratic nominee for president Barack Obama. When she heard a staffer call him "senator," Panettiere started to lobby him about whales. At the time, he didn't know who she was.
"Here I am trying to focus, about to meet the president, and I have this girl talking to me about her whale bill," Strauss said with a laugh. "I'm like, 'Hey, kid, I'm happy to talk to you after about your fish.'" He was quickly corrected by her that they are mammals.
He kept his promise to talk and a lunch meeting occurred shortly thereafter. Panettiere learned from Strauss that he was not allowed to vote for her bill because he did not have the right to vote in Congress.
"So as she's telling me whales can't vote for themselves, I'm like, 'I have 600,000 mammals in the District that can't vote,'" he joked.
Panettiere was stunned to learn about the voting situation and said she "would love to help" him. So they made a deal: if she helped the District, he would learn more about the whale bill.
Strauss added that since then, he has developed "a nice little friendship" with Panettiere: she was his guest at the Democratic National Convention in Denver and at the presidential inauguration. And he has become more aware of all things whale.