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Lobbyists pay tab for Issa aide's retreat

Republicans gathered to plot strategy at posh Maryland resort

Kurt Bardella and Darrell Issa
Kurt Bardella and Darrell Issa

It's been a busy week on the road for Darrell Issa, the North County GOP congressman who has set out for New Hampshire in quest of what many believe is his party's nomination for the presidency of the United States.

As is the tradition with such trips, the putative presidential candidate sent out a spokesman to deny he's interested in the job.

"He is not running for president," ex-Issa congressional aide Kurt Bardella, who now runs Endeavor Strategic Communications, told inquiring members of the media. "Congressman Issa wants to do everything he can to help grow the Republican Party and play a positive and impactful role in shaping its message going forward."

But that hasn't stopped the speculation. "Darrell's also abrasive and single-minded…and when it comes to members of Congress who really detest Barack Obama, he's going to be on everybody's top-three list. That alone sets him apart," pollster John Zogby told National Journal.

"I think there's a certain cache [sic] when you appear larger than your district," he said. "It gives more clout to your gavel."

Meanwhile, another Issa staffer has recently gotten back from a trip heavy with political connotations.

According to a congressional employee travel post-disclosure form filed February 10 with the House ethics committee, Lawrence J. Brady, staff director of the Issa-chaired House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, spent from January 29 through 31 at a Congressional Institute event held by Republicans in Cambridge, Maryland.

"As staff director, I am required to be familiar with the public policy issues discussed at the conference so that I can assist members in the planning of the committee's agenda," Brady wrote on the form.

An attached program lists presentations by Steve Hayes of the Weekly Standard and National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru. At a session entitled "Lay of the Land," GOP pollster David Winston was joined by Rich Thau of Presentation Testing and John McLaughlin of McLaughlin and Associates.

The evening's keynote speaker was Hall of Fame college-football coach Lou Holtz of Notre Dame and elsewhere. Richard Campos-Duffy of the LIBRE Initiative, a GOP effort to reach Latino voters, also put in an appearance.

Pollster Frank Luntz was there, as was Sean Parnell, a retired Army captain and author of Outlaw Platoon, the best-seller about the 10th Mountain Division’s stand in Afghanistan. House speaker John Boehner led a session with fellow Republican congressional leaders entitled "Rebuilding the American Dream."

Brady's total tab for the outing, picked up by the institute, was $1125, including expenses for an "accompanying relative," according to the disclosure, which adds, "the security of the Members of Congress attending warrants a motorcade protected by Capitol Police." The parties stayed at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake.

Peter Overby, a National Public Radio correspondent who covered the event, asked Congressional Institute president Mark Strand about the GOP's longtime practice of financing the getaways through dues paid by its lobbyist members.

"They've decided, Republicans, that they didn't want to use taxpayer dollars to do these retreats," Strand told NPR.

"The reception and the dinner of the first night [lobbyists] attend, which is typical for, you know, most organizations in Washington, D.C., that have support," he continued. "So they just attend the reception, just the dinner, and then they go home the next morning."

Democrats conduct their own version of the strategy conferences but avoid lobbyists and instead stick taxpayers with the bill, Overby recounted.

"Now, this isn't to say advocates are barred from Democratic retreats," the NPR reporter noted. "The caucus often hears speakers from liberal think tanks and nonprofit groups. But it doesn't schmooze with lobbyists, at least not at the retreats."

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Kurt Bardella and Darrell Issa
Kurt Bardella and Darrell Issa

It's been a busy week on the road for Darrell Issa, the North County GOP congressman who has set out for New Hampshire in quest of what many believe is his party's nomination for the presidency of the United States.

As is the tradition with such trips, the putative presidential candidate sent out a spokesman to deny he's interested in the job.

"He is not running for president," ex-Issa congressional aide Kurt Bardella, who now runs Endeavor Strategic Communications, told inquiring members of the media. "Congressman Issa wants to do everything he can to help grow the Republican Party and play a positive and impactful role in shaping its message going forward."

But that hasn't stopped the speculation. "Darrell's also abrasive and single-minded…and when it comes to members of Congress who really detest Barack Obama, he's going to be on everybody's top-three list. That alone sets him apart," pollster John Zogby told National Journal.

"I think there's a certain cache [sic] when you appear larger than your district," he said. "It gives more clout to your gavel."

Meanwhile, another Issa staffer has recently gotten back from a trip heavy with political connotations.

According to a congressional employee travel post-disclosure form filed February 10 with the House ethics committee, Lawrence J. Brady, staff director of the Issa-chaired House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, spent from January 29 through 31 at a Congressional Institute event held by Republicans in Cambridge, Maryland.

"As staff director, I am required to be familiar with the public policy issues discussed at the conference so that I can assist members in the planning of the committee's agenda," Brady wrote on the form.

An attached program lists presentations by Steve Hayes of the Weekly Standard and National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru. At a session entitled "Lay of the Land," GOP pollster David Winston was joined by Rich Thau of Presentation Testing and John McLaughlin of McLaughlin and Associates.

The evening's keynote speaker was Hall of Fame college-football coach Lou Holtz of Notre Dame and elsewhere. Richard Campos-Duffy of the LIBRE Initiative, a GOP effort to reach Latino voters, also put in an appearance.

Pollster Frank Luntz was there, as was Sean Parnell, a retired Army captain and author of Outlaw Platoon, the best-seller about the 10th Mountain Division’s stand in Afghanistan. House speaker John Boehner led a session with fellow Republican congressional leaders entitled "Rebuilding the American Dream."

Brady's total tab for the outing, picked up by the institute, was $1125, including expenses for an "accompanying relative," according to the disclosure, which adds, "the security of the Members of Congress attending warrants a motorcade protected by Capitol Police." The parties stayed at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake.

Peter Overby, a National Public Radio correspondent who covered the event, asked Congressional Institute president Mark Strand about the GOP's longtime practice of financing the getaways through dues paid by its lobbyist members.

"They've decided, Republicans, that they didn't want to use taxpayer dollars to do these retreats," Strand told NPR.

"The reception and the dinner of the first night [lobbyists] attend, which is typical for, you know, most organizations in Washington, D.C., that have support," he continued. "So they just attend the reception, just the dinner, and then they go home the next morning."

Democrats conduct their own version of the strategy conferences but avoid lobbyists and instead stick taxpayers with the bill, Overby recounted.

"Now, this isn't to say advocates are barred from Democratic retreats," the NPR reporter noted. "The caucus often hears speakers from liberal think tanks and nonprofit groups. But it doesn't schmooze with lobbyists, at least not at the retreats."

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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