Congress is on the brink of the fiscal cliff, but that’s no reason to stop the holiday merriment.
The National Republican Congressional Committee organized a lavish, family-themed fundraising excursion for GOP lawmakers in New York City last weekend.
The trip, which included a private shopping spree at Bloomingdale’s, could fuel further criticism from top Democrats, who last week complained about the few days the House has been in session, even with many important political issues unresolved.
Members left for the trip, titled “Bright Lights and Broadway,” at 9:20 a.m. on Dec. 7 via Amtrak in two private train cars, according to an itinerary obtained by CQ Roll Call.
They stayed at the New York Palace, the luxury hotel that houses GILT, the two-star Michelin rated restaurant. The Zagat review of the Palace says: “‘It’s good to be king’ say the loyal subjects of this Midtown palace with a ‘perfect’ location ‘for everything’ and ‘graciously decorated’ quarters (royals ‘recommend the tower rooms’).”
At 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 8, participants were offered an opportunity to shop at Bloomingdale’s at 59th Street and Lexington Avenue.
Allowed into the store a half hour before opening, each guest was given a 15 percent “savings pass” and presented a gift bag with a purchase of $300 or more.
That afternoon, participants enjoyed a special event at the American Girl doll store. “Please join us for tea with your favorite American Girl doll,” the itinerary stated.
That evening, after a private reception, the members and their benefactors took to the theatre. Their options included “Newsies,” “A Christmas Story,” “Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” “Annie,” “Evita,” “Wicked” and “Grace.”
On Sunday morning, the fun continued at famed toy store FAO Schwarz, where the group was offered a 45-minute tour of the premises “by a world famous FAO Toy Soldier.”
Other perks included continental breakfast, a “candy raid” in a special candy section of the store and “private time” on the 16-foot walk-on piano made famous by Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia in the 1988 film “Big.”
“Personal shoppers will be on hand to assist with holiday shopping, as well,” the itinerary said.
At noon on Sunday, the group traveled to the Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex, where participants chose among various activities, including a golf driving range with professional instructors on hand; rock climbing on a 25-foot artificial cliff; a guided gymnastics training session, including the use of “various trampolines”; batting cages and ice skating.
The registration form for members asked for a fee of $575 to pay for “round-trip transportation, one theatre ticket, events and private shopping.”
According to a review of prices for the various amenities included, that fee would not likely add up to the total price for each activity on its own. It is unclear whether the fee also paid for lodging at the New York Palace, where prices average more than $300 per night.
The logo for 3 Dog Consulting, a fundraising consulting firm from Alexandria, Va., was included on the registration form, and Amy Paridy, one of its employees, is listed as a point of contact.
Reached by phone Monday, Paridy declined to comment.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.