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Democratic state assemblywoman Lori Saldaña was along for the ride on a lavish two-week postelection junket through South America that is causing big static in L.A. Paid for by an outfit called the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy, the trip began two days after the November 7 election and wound up November 22, with nights along the way spent in at least five luxury hotels, including the Copacabana Palace in Rio and the Alvear Palace in Buenos Aires. In addition to Saldaña, the high-flying delegation included Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles; Susan Kennedy, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's chief of staff; a variety of members of both houses of the legislature from both parties; and high-powered lobbyists from Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, Sempra Energy, Comcast, and Chevron, all backers of the foundation bankrolling the trip. Details were rooted out by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, which obtained internal legislative documents describing the journey via the state's Public Records Act. All was not boat tours and wine tasting. November 14's schedule included a "briefing/tour Swine Farm" near Rio before jetting off to Argentina. The day before, the group heard from a General Motors exec about "Flexible Fuel Vehicles." On November 20, the delegation was in Santiago, Chile, listening to a "Presentation of free flow system of Autopista Central." That evening they were at the Santa Rita Winery for a "reception in vineyard gardens" with U.S. Ambassador Craig Kelly. ... Until he left the congressional payroll last month, Scott Turner, the ex-Charger backed for Congress by LaDainian Tomlinson, worked for Congressman Duncan Hunter, not Hunter's fellow GOP representative Brian Bilbray, as reported here last week.

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