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Issa opposes bill honoring Puerto Rican golf legend Chi Chi Rodriguez

December 2, 2010 - 10:06 am

Rep. Darrell Issa was one of two lonely votes against a Congressional resolution to honor Puetro Rican golf legend Juan Antonio “Chi Chi” Rodriguez, winner of eight PGA tours and fundraiser for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI).

The reason is relationships. According to an Issa spokesman, the Vista Congress member was backing up  Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, one of his Oversight committee brothers, who lashed out at an apparent conflict of interest between 13 of the bill’s sponsors who sit on the CHCI board.

A total of 405 House members disagreed (the rest didn’t vote), including San Diego County’s other four representatives–Republicans Brian Bilbray and Duncan Hunter and Democrats Susan Davis and Bob Filner.

Rep. Joe Baca, the San Bernadino Democrat and former CHCI chairman who introduced the bill, wasn’t shy about the relationship. In fact, that was the point of H.Res 1430, which was titled: “Honoring and saluting golf legend Juan Antonio ‘Chi Chi’ Rodriguez for his commitment to Latino youth programs of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.”

The text of the bill contains language honoring Rodriguez for raising $824,000 in scholarships through CHCI’s golf tournament since 2007.  Chaffetz, who is finishing up his freshman term, saw this as conflict of interest; the idea being that it seems like Baca and his CHCI co-directors are using public resources to reward an athlete for work he did for their organization.

Here’s the video clip of Chaffetz having a go at Baca:

When Chaffetz asked on the House floor whether it was a conflict, Baca responded:

“No it’s not. It’s really thinking about someone who who has contributed, someone who has done an awful lot and it’s bipartisan. Individuals both Republicans and Democrats belong to the CHCI board as well and we welcome the new members that just got elected to become part of that board that will say, ‘You know what? We got to honor individuals.’ It’s not about a conflict of interest, it’s not about anything else. It’s about doing something that’s positive for individuals. When someone is going to receive something in return then it becomes a conflict of interest. We’re not receiving anything in return. All we’re going is honoring an individual.”

Chaffetz says he also opposes, on principle, honoring sports figures. Minutes later, Baca produces H. Res 942,  “Commending the Real Salt Lake soccer club for winning the 2009 Major League Soccer Cup,” which Chaffetz not only voted for but cosponsored.

Chaffetz conceded that he had voted for sports bills in the past.

“I finally realized this was a colossal waste of time,” Chaffetz said.

House Republicans are moving to ban these types of resolutions from coming up for a vote in the next session. According to the Post, Republican leadership announced that among its new rules yesterday morning, with Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon, specifically mentioning the Chi Chi bill. As quoted in the Washington Post:

“If Americans knew we spent this week honoring and saluting golf legend Chi-Chi Rodriguez and commending the city of Jacksonville, Arkansas, while their taxes are about to go up and our national debt is exploding, they’d send us all packing,” Walden said. “This is not the work that the American people sent us here to do.”

Walden, along with Reps. John Boehner and Rob Bishop, who were also at the press conference, voted for the resolution.

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