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Stephen Dobyns 8:30 a.m., July 20
When he was a member of the state legislature and a big favorite of insurance companies, Democratic Congressman Juan Vargas regularly showed up at free golf outings around the country including, according to a March 2006 report in what was then called the San Diego Union-Tribune, one particularly memorable road marathon to California's most infamous lobbyist schmooze spots.
In September, Pacific Care, Hartford Life, Pacific Life and Prudential Financial each paid $290 for a three-day golfing trip for Vargas that included rounds at Pebble Beach, Cypress Point and Spyglass Hill.
Some also paid for receptions attended by the lawmaker. Other companies also chipped in.
The freshman Democrat has also managed to squeeze his favorite sport into his political fundraising rounds, including March's “Margaritas, Mariachis & Mulligans” and a $2500 a person bash at the Barona Creek Golf Club featuring a "shot gun" start on the greens.
Thus it may not come as much of a surprise that the first free trip Vargas accepted as a new member of congress was one to the posh Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay resort on a cliff by the ocean a bit down the Pacific coast from San Francisco.
According to a recently filed free trip disclosure report, Vargas was the guest of the California Land Title Association, which invited him to be the keynote speaker at its annual convention.
He addressed the gathering about "issues related to land title transactions that he was familiar with as a former member of [the] California state bar," the disclosure says.
Says the hotel's website:
Whether you’re roasting marshmallows and making s’mores in your own terrace fire pit or relaxing on the bluff after a rejuvenating spa treatment, our resort offers a stunning destination for your next luxury getaway.
Delight in delectable, innovative cuisine in our ocean-view restaurants, tee off on two championship golf courses or explore miles of walking trails in one of the most romantic settings in Northern California.
The group picked up Vargas's business class round trip air fare from San Diego up the coast on April 28 and back the next day, said to be valued at $957.80, along with lodging expenses of $336.20.
Total meal costs were reported to be $39.