Codel to Portofino whisks lawmakers to posh resort

Lawmakers who went on a recent congressional trip to Portofino, Italy, were in for a big treat: Splendido, the ultimate in five-star luxury resorts. The website refers to the hotel as a “playground of the rich,” where “the views are magnificent, across a landscape dotted with cypresses to the colorful harbor where yachts jostle with fishing boats.”

The purpose of the Nov. 2-5 trip, led by Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.), was a trilateral conference of the Italian and U.K. parliaments and U.S. lawmakers. The main focus of the discussions was global warming, the Middle East and dealing with Iran. Lawmakers on the codel included Reps. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.), John Campbell (D-Calif.) Charlie Melancon (D-La.) and Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.), as well as Carnahan’s wife, Debra, a judge.

“It was very important that we have these talks because it’s important to talk with our allies in the face of the situation with Iran,” said Shannon O’Brien, Carnahan’s spokeswoman, of the trip.

Based on the current dollar-euro rate, the least expensive room in the hotel costs $771 per night off-season, the website says. The most expensive room is the hotel’s two-bedroom presidential suite, which runs $7,125 a night in-season and $5,900 a night off-season.

The hotel was chosen by Roger Casale, a former member of British Parliament who is now chairman of the Portofino Dialogues. The cost for the delegation of five members of Congress and three staff was 500 euros per person per night, which covered all food and accommodations, wrote Lynn Weil in an email, spokeswoman for the Foreign Affairs Committee.

When the lawmakers and their spouses were not fostering diplomatic ties, they had a plethora of relaxing and recreational options at the resort — everything from tennis, golf, and boating to yoga and Pilates. T-shirts reading “I feel SPLENDIDO” could be purchased at the hotel boutique.

On two of the evenings, lawmakers retreated to the piano bar, where a few codel participants let loose in song.

Watson sang on the first night; Debra Carnahan sang the second.

Debra Carnahan “actually sings and plays piano, so she is musically inclined,” assured O’Brien. Her songs included “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon, “Fever” by Peggy Lee, “Summertime” by George Gershwin and “That’s What Friends are For” by Dionne Warwick.

To see the Hotel Splendido, visit www.hotelsplendido.com.


Alec Baldwin fights for child nutrition after calling daughter a pig

Actor Alec Baldwin was criticized in April after he suggested that his daughter was obese. In a voice mail tirade to his 11-year-old, Ireland, he called her “a thoughtless little pig.”  

In an ironic twist, the actor is now getting involved in the farm bill — legislation set to reach the floor this week that would affect the nutrition of children. In a letter to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Baldwin appealed to the presidential hopeful about the epidemic of childhood obesity, urging her to support an overhaul of federal school lunch programs.

Baldwin asked her to take a look in particular at federal policies that keep high-fat, high-cholesterol and high-sugar foods too plentiful in schools.

Baldwin is a longtime supporter of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. A nonprofit organization, PCRM is campaigning to reform the federal food policy so that it stops subsidizing the production of meat, oil and other foods it deems unhealthy.


Lawmakers fall into Caspian Sea

What happens when you cross two Samoan staffers, a motorboat and two wet congressman?

Answer: A story that some have tried to keep under wraps — until now.

Last week, Del. Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) confirmed that he and several other lawmakers, including Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah), fell into the Caspian Sea during his August congressional trip to Kazakhstan. They were walking from muddy terrain onto a dock to scout oil platforms when the dock collapsed.  

The lawmakers were not wearing suits and ties at the time, but were well-dressed in casual shirts and nice shoes.
While Cannon got one of his legs wet up to approximately his knee, Faleomavaega didn’t fare so well. He fell fully into the water, which, thankfully, was warm.  

But Faleomavaega was not laughing — then or now.  

“I wasn’t laughing, I was mad,” Faleomavaega said.

Cannon, on the other hand, still laughs about it and offers this explanation as to why Faleomavaega got soaked and he stayed dry.

“Eni’s lifetime of living near the ocean served him well,” Cannon said. “My lifetime of living near a desert meant I remained relatively dry. We went out there to see Kazakh oil platforms. After we got wet, our hosts were impressed with our zeal to see the underwater aspects of oil extraction.”

The only mystery was why Eni led the delegation onto the dock. Cannon offered one explanation: “We are in the minority now, so we let the Democrats go first.”


Mitt Romney: Now on Merriam-Webster Online

While President Bush is not known for his large vocabulary, 2008 contender Mitt Romney may be going after a smarter, more intellectual presidential image by posting ads on www.merriam-webster.com. Not that he needs it — the former GOP governor of Massachusetts did graduate with a joint J.D.-MBA from Harvard.

Kevin Madden, Romney’s spokesman, explained that the campaign’s ad buys are part of a network. “Internet ad buying is still a new frontier to political campaigns, so the ads appear in all likelihood as part of an ad network buy,” Madden wrote in an e-mail.

“Having said that, Gov. Romney’s prepossession towards the appositeness of classificatory vernacular is, unfortunately, sometimes indiscernible.”


Rep. Blunt offers late-night food to members, staff — and, sometimes, reporters

When former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) ruled the roost, he provided pizza to members and staff working late.

By and large, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) keeps the same tradition by providing dinner for members every night that there are late votes. But the fare is now more varied — Blunt’s top five takeout places are Chicken Out, Rocklands Barbecue & Grilling Company, Bucca di Bepo, Young Chow and Qdoba.

Leftovers go to U.S. Capitol Police and, sometimes, a lower former of species.

“I think the leftovers are also available to the media — it’s a horrible sort of thing,” Blunt joked last week.