“He who excuses himself, accuses himself.” _ Puerto Rican proverb
More than 109 lobbyists and 39 Democrat members of Congress attended a “winter retreat” last weekend in Puerto Rico, ostensibly to help raise funds for damage caused by hurricane Maria in 2017, reports Fox News. The fun in the sun was enhanced by a limited run of the Broadway hit “Hamilton,” starring its creator, lead actor, and Democrat partisan, Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Much of the media ignored what used to be called a “junket,” probably because the cast of characters were Democrats and the major media prefer to focus on bashing President Donald Trump and Republicans.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., was there, which seems surprising given his acquittal (“not enough evidence,” the judge said) a year ago on corruption charges that included allegations that he cavorted with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. It’s not exactly the kind of image one should want to project after so much bad publicity, but he’s a Democrat and the standards and expectations of members of that party are different.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC was the official sponsor of the retreat. Members tried to give themselves cover by meeting with Puerto Rican officials to discuss ongoing cleanup work on the island. This recalls the way these junkets worked in the past when some members of Congress would take their wives along to Europe or other exotic places. The wives would shop and the member would play several rounds of golf, after which he would meet for an hour or so with a government official and declare the junket “official business.”
The Washington Examiner reported the San Juan gathering took place at a seaside resort where rooms go for $429 a night. The newspaper said participants paid for their own tickets to see “Hamilton.” Well, that’s a relief. Now what about who paid for the chartered jet, hotel rooms, food and other entertainment? Could it have been the lobbyists?
All of this partying occurred during the partial government shutdown, but being politicians they had a response to what seemed like insensitivity to those 800,000 federal employees who were denied their paychecks. BOLD PAC Chairman Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., issued a statement: “As our Bold PAC members make their way to Puerto Rico for this important weekend — the largest contingency of House Democrats to visit Puerto Rico where they’ll be hearing from Commonwealth and local elected officials about the ongoing recovery efforts — we will be closely monitoring the situation in Washington. If there is any progress by Senate Republicans or the White House to reopen the federal government, then we will act accordingly.”
This is a good example of the tendency Hal Pashler and I documented in Perceptions of Newsworthiness Are Contaminated by a Political Usefulness Bias. This tendency won’t come as a shock to any observant person who pays attention to politics, but it was fun to run an experiment that confirmed it.