The congressman's new look
An assistant to North County Republican congressman Darrell Issa — whose failed bid for a repeat term as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has been chalked up by some to his waning power on Capitol Hill —took off for the Pacific Northwest this month to find out more about Facebook, Google, and a host of other high-power internet outfits.
Issa now holds the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee's Intellectual Property sub-committee, where Ellen Dargie works as his counsel.
Darrell Issa's pedicab ride
According to a March 18 travel disclosure report, Dargie "advises on all technology policy, the primary topic of trip," which was sponsored by the Internet Association.
The group lobbies on issues favored by its members, including more work visas for foreign engineers.
"The Internet Association supports an immigration system that allows more high-skilled graduates to stay in the United States and allows for foreign professionals to contribute to our economy through a STEM green card program and an improved H1-B work visa process," its website says.
As Don Bauder recently reported here, the issue remains controversial.
During their two-day Seattle journey from March 10 through 12, Dargie and fellow congressional staffers did breakfast at the offices of online travel site Expedia, Inc.
There was a "discussion highlighting the intersection of technology, travel, and public policy," the trip's itinerary says.
Then it was off to Facebook's Seattle engineering office, "where many important features of the product are born, such as 'Newsfeed.'"
At Google, the technology tourists got "an opportunity to meet with ‘Googlers’ on various product and policy teams as well a chance to see the latest products Google is working on, including 'cardboard.’”
The final work stop of the day was Amazon, for a presentation by the company's "Culture Engagement Leader.” They later heard about "the impact of intellectual property, privacy, taxation, and transportation policies" from "Amazon leaders." Afterward was a "meet and greet reception with members of the business."
The evening's free dinner spread was laid out at downtown’s Palace Kitchen, where "the bustling bar scene and open kitchen with applewood burning grill set the mood," according to the restaurant's website.
Then it was back to a second night at the Hotel Vintage, where "every room includes our state-of-the-art Obsess media entertainment system: simply dock your device, turn on your flat panel TV and enjoy your collection of music, movies and more," according to its website.
Dargie is no stranger to free travel courtesy of special interests. As previously reported here, in January she attended the Consumer Electronics Association’s annual blowout in Las Vegas at a total cost to the association of $1386.76.
“We remind you that, because the trip sponsor employs a federal lobbyist, you may participate in officially-connected activity on one calendar day only,” said a December 22 letter to Dargie from the House ethics committee.
“For purposes of this trip, officially-connected activity includes attending conference sessions and visiting the product exhibits on the ‘Show Floor.’”
Dargie's latest junket, including free travel, hotel, and food and drink, was said to set back the Internet Association a total of $930.
"I did not accept return flight travel," her disclosure statement says. "Instead, in connection with official duties, I flew to Austin, TX and this was not paid for by the trip sponsor."
Austin was where Darrell Issa was soaking up national media attention at South by Southwest Interactive, the techie event linked to the annual music festival.
The congressman spoke against warrantless email seizures and took some shots at putative Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, a longtime nemesis from his days on the oversight committee, who has of late been in hot water over her own email management.
"She is beginning to look like a modern, Democratic, Richard Nixon," the newly bearded Issa told CNN. "That's not good for somebody who aspires to be president."