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Thirty Democrats spent the weekend sunning themselves on the beaches of Puerto Rico, enjoying the Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD PAC’s winter retreat in San Juan, while their colleagues back at home worked to negotiate an end to the ongoing government shutdown, and complained — loudly — that most federal workers have now missed a paycheck.
The timing could not have been worse for BOLD PAC’s annual roundtable weekend, where “key officials” met with members of the Puerto Rican government to discuss the ongoing Hurricane Maria relief efforts — but also to spend quality time soaking up rays on San Juan’s famous beaches, rubbing elbows with Puerto Rico’s VIPs, and attending a premiere performance of the musical “Hamilton,” starring the show’s A-list creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda.
And, the Washington Examiner reports, Democrats spent quality time with lobbyists from some of the world’s biggest corporations.
“Some 109 lobbyists and corporate executives are named in the memo, a rate of 3.6 lobbyists for every member. They include those from several big K Street firms, R.J. Reynolds, Facebook, Comcast, Amazon, PhRMA, Microsoft, Intel, Verizon, and unions like the National Education Association,” according to the Examiner.
It does not appear that the vacation is all expenses paid (lawmakers covered their own “Hamilton” tickets, for example), but legislators reportedly received a free stay at a $429-per-night resort and most of their meals were covered.
“This year’s winter retreat promises to be our most widely attended yet with over 220 guests, including 39 Members of Congress and CHC BOLD PAC supporters expected to attend and participate!” a planning memo said.
“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda began a two-week run of his hit play Friday in Puerto Rico to raise money for artists and cultural groups still struggling in wake of Hurricane Maria. Tickets for opening night ranged from $10 to $5,000, according to the Associated Press.
Eagle-eyed tourists spotted a handful of Democrats enjoying the beautiful Puerto Rican weather.
One Twitter user snapped a picture of Sen. Robert Menendez enjoying an impromptu meeting on the beach.
BOLD PAC did not release a list of legislators attending their annual event, but the Washington Examiner obtained a partial list from the resort.
Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was on the list, but her Washington, D.C. office insists that she did not make the trip.
Democrats justified the trip by claiming that the retreat was planned well in advance of the shutdown, and that Democrats were working hard on reopening the government even as they relaxed in 80 degree weather.
“House Democrats voted to open the government multiple times; sadly, Senate Republicans and President Trump are continuing to put partisan politics ahead of our country, forcing the government to remain shut down,” Bold PAC Chair Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA) said in 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,” Bold PAC Chair Rep. Tony Cardenas said in a statement.
“If there is any progress by Senate Republicans or the White House to reopen the federal government, then we will act accordingly.”