A staffer to congressman Juan Vargas has accepted a free overnight in Manhattan courtesy of a Washington think tank. This time it’s Scott Hinkle, legislative director for the border Democrat, who took off for New York on November 6, checking into the Hudson Hotel on West 58th Street near Columbus Circle.
“The next generation of hotel, Hudson is stylish, democratic, young at heart and utterly cool,” boasts the hostelry’s website. “Born from the innovative vision of design impresario Philippe Starck, this luxury New York boutique hotel is exuberantly energetic, breathtakingly beautiful and architecturally unpredictable.” Added features include the “Hudson Lodge (open seasonally), New York’s first urban ski-resort themed bar filled with authentic taxidermy, faux-fur throws and sheep-skin pillows.”
Hinkle has hit the road before on other people’s dimes, including a two-day junket in April of this year to Boston, thanks to $1153 from the security studies program of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a big government contractor, and a one-day excursion in June to Philadelphia paid for with $142 from Third Way, a nonprofit backed by major corporate interests that have included Qualcomm. Before that it was a December 2013 two-day getaway in Manhattan to tour the stock market, the $379 cost picked up by Wall Street’s Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation, run by big banks. Hinkle paid for the overnight.
The $678 bill for the aide’s latest trip to the Big Apple was footed by an outfit called the Progressive Policy Institute, most famously known as ex-president Bill Clinton’s “idea mill.” The agenda for the event, held at Columbia’s business school and entitled “Reviving U.S. Economic Growth,” included such topics as “reinventing public education,” “how bottom up innovation creates mass prosperity,” and “energy, a realistic path to clean growth.” An evening reception was booked for the tony Columbia Club, whose mission, according its website, is “to provide a superior quality club experience by offering excellent facilities for the social, business, and certain recreational needs of members and their families.” But Hinkle had to depart early from the tour on November 7, due to what his disclosure form calls a “family emergency.”
The big-money Progressive Policy Institute, backed by the likes of the Eli Lilly and AT&T, is a bi-partisan trip-giver. This past April, it coughed up $2996 so Ellen Dargie, an aide to North County Republican congressman Darrell Issa, could head off to London, Brussels, and Berlin as part of an 11-member group of fellow congressional staffers for five days of free-trade discussions over drinks and dinners with European officials.