The press was frozen out – literally – of the John Boehner fundraiser Tuesday evening. A handful of print reporters and a Fox-TV camera crew waited outside the Marco Polo restaurant in the frosty air, along with a small gaggle of protesters holding signs, while inside, supporters who paid $250 to rub elbows got to listen to the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
For a few dollars more – $1,000 – attendees got to arrive early for the VIP reception, and enjoy facetime with Boehner, or at least get a photo shot of themselves with him. The speaker was apparently spirited in and out of the restaurant via a back entrance, and never put in an appearance out front, or was available to answer any questions.
The line of Cadillacs, BMWs, Lexus, Mercedes, and at least one Bentley motorcar, along with the Marco Polo’s limos, gave the look of an upscale car lot to the scene outside the restaurant. As speaker, Boehner is third in line for the presidency, a fact emphasized by a Marco police cruiser monitoring from down the street, and the presence of men in dark suits with coiled cords snaking out of earpieces into their jackets.
The event’s proceeds will go to benefit the Boehner for Speaker Committee, a joint effort comprised of the speaker’s re-election committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Speaker’s leadership PAC and the Ohio Republican Party. As the leader of the House Republicans, Boehner has been a high-profile figure in opposition to President Obama, and the focus of questions on his ability to hold his troops in line, with the Tea Party wing of the party apparently refusing to go along with agreements Boehner has reached on legislation. Boehner, who is also known for his perpetual deep tan, is a frequent visitor to the Marco area, staying with friends who live locally.
Boehner spoke to over 100 attendees on several subjects including the Canadian pipeline, which President Obama has delayed until after the election, said Phyllis Sinoradzki of the Caxambas Republican Club. Boehner stated he would bring up the topic consistently hoping to get approval before the election. He discussed the two-month payroll tax extension and being pressured to bend and agree to the two-month deal.
The Republican stalwarts who did get to hear the Speaker’s remarks were warm in their praise. Joe Granda, a vice president of the Caxambas Republican Club, which hosted the gathering, said the message was simple.
“We gotta elect Republicans – for president, for the House and Senate, and get this country back on track,” he said.
“He’s doing what’s right for America,” said Bob McEwen of Naples Park. “He has a very difficult job.”
“He’s working against people who want to fundamentally change America,” Lou Terhar said of Boehner.
“He’s the best thing that ever happened to this country,” said Mark David.
Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala said, “Man, he was good. He didn’t talk like the usual politician. He talked to us very down to earth.” Fiala attended the event, she said, as a volunteer for the Caxambas Republicans.
The protesters outside, who identified themselves as members of the Occupy movement, had a different viewpoint.
“John Boehner was caught passing out checks from Big Tobacco to Congressmen on the floor of the House,” said retiree Scott Wilkinson, holding a sign that said “Get your corporate $ out of our democracy,” and standing with his wife Ofelia. “Is he ashamed? He should be. He disgraces our country.”
“We need to get money out of the political process,” said Erika Ferrari of Occupy Naples, who pointed out she is a lawyer, not a student or a hippie. “We’re here to tell him that, even if it is freezing cold.”