A bipartisan delegation of 13 congressional staffers took an all-expenses-paid spring junket to Hollywood and San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, courtesy of a lobbying group called the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. “The excitement that the press, pundits and decision makers showed toward the information technology revolution in the 1990s has all too often been replaced with an attitude of ‘IT doesn’t matter,’” grouses the group’s website. “And as the innovation economy has become increasingly important, opposition to it from special interests has grown.”
Enter the foundation, which picks up the tab for “regular trips with Members of Congress and/or senior House and Senate staff to high-tech and innovation hubs around the country to hear from company leaders about new developments and issues, and to participate in educational forums on IT and innovation policy issues.” That’s according to an official junket justification form filed April 16 by Stamatios Stephen Dagadakis, an aide to House member John B. Larson, a Connecticut Democrat. The foundation, the disclosure says, “selected Los Angeles and San Diego, CA for this trip because the region is one of the leading innovation and technology centers in the United States.”
Perhaps another decider: a key member of the foundation’s board is Greg Farmer, vice president of government affairs for La Jolla–based cell phone giant Qualcomm, Inc., and manager of the company’s influential Washington lobbying operation. After jetting into LAX on April 2, the Senate and House staffers headed for Hollywood, where they toured Paramount’s digital production studio, then visited the “research and development” facilities of video game creator Electronic Arts. After that it was off to a “Roundtable Dinner Discussion” with Jean-Lou Chameau, president of the California Institute of Technology, at Kendall’s Brasserie and Bar. (Says the restaurant’s website: “A dynamic central bar and lounge serves superb wines and cocktails with cooked dishes and hand-selected raw bar delicacies — only steps away from the Music Center.”)
Having spent the night at the Omni Hotel at California Plaza, the delegation decamped the next morning to Walt Disney Studios, where it got a “tour of Disney Feature Animation and Walt Disney Imagineering.” Then it was back on the bus to San Diego and a “Drive-Thru Lunch” at In-N-Out Burger. Next came visits to Life Technologies in Carlsbad for a “Discussion on Mapping the Human Genome” and HP in Rancho Bernardo for yet another walk-through. After a “Presentation on Wireless Medical Device Technologies” at West Wireless Health Institute in La Jolla, the group turned up at the posh Estancia hotel across from UCSD for a “Roundtable Dinner Discussion with Top San Diego–Area Venture Capitalists.” By nine that night, it was time to head downtown and check into the Westin Gaslamp Quarter hotel, steps from San Diego’s party central. At nine the next morning, April 4, the staffers finally made their way to Qualcomm for a pitch regarding “Qualcomm Technologies and [the] Future of the Industry.” By one o’clock that afternoon, the delegation was flying back to Washington.
According to the report filed by Dagadakis with the clerk of the House and posted online by Legistorm, transportation expenses were $1353.36, hotels were $453.45, and meals $262.12. Total cost to the foundation for all 13 junketeers: $26,627.