On September 2, Dawn Rizos, owner of The Lodge, received an invite to A Very Special Event with Newt Gingrich. Specifically, she was asked to fly to Washington, D.C., on October 7 to pick up her award as a 2009 Entreprenuer of the Year -- an honor that was to be bestowed upon her by the former Speaker of the House's Business Defense and Advisory Council. Seriously: "Newt would like to arrange a private dinner with you at the historic Capitol Hill Club on the evening of October 7," read the letter from one Joe Gaylord, who, at the bottom of his lengthy missive, scribbled, "Dawn -- Newt is looking forward to finally meeting you face to face -- and get your thoughts on cap and trade and Obama's tax policy." Except he wrote it in all caps. It's after the jump.
Anyway, the gentleman's club owner and her PR man, Michael Precker, followed up with a phone call, during which they were told that Newt would also need $5,000 by way of a RSVP. Which Rizos promptly put on her credit card. Because, hey, sounds fun.
"I know how it works," Rizos tells Unfair Park. "It's a fund-raiser. I'm not naive. I know how those things operate: They'll give you an award if you cough up some money. I thought it would be a great thing to hang in the foyer of the club -- a certificate, a gavel, a picture of me and Newt. I thought it would be a lot of fun." So did Gingrich, who, on September 16, sent Rizos a letter in which he wrote, "Dear Mrs. Rizos, thank you very much for speaking with my assistant Linda Anders and for your generous $5,000 contribution to join my Business Defense and Advisory Council. ... I also want to personally congratulate you on being selected as one of our 2009 Entrepreneurs of the Year representing Texas." (That's after the jump as well.)
So, flights were booked, and hotel reservations were made. Then came the call Monday evening from Newt's people.
"They left a message Monday evening," Precker says. '"They didn't say why. We finally spoke yesterday morning. There is a fellow named Michael Johnston. He works for InfoCision, which works with 527s to assemble donor lists." At which point Precker says he was told that, sorry, Newt had made a mistake -- thought Rizos was somebody else. And, um, the invite has been rescinded.
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"They said it was a misunderstsanding, a mistake," Rizos says. "They know what we are. All they have to do is Google my name."
We called Gaylord's number, only to reach a woman who said he was "traveling with Newt" and could not be reached for comment. A message was left.
Rizos has said Gingrich's people have promised to return her money -- even the airfare -- but, still, she's bummed. And, a little relieved. And, a little pissed off.
"That would have been very stressful," she says. "I don't think our business is anything to be ashamed of, and I don't think they shouldn't honor us. We're a big convention draw for the city of Dallas, we employ a lot of people and do as much good as possible no matter what other people think of it. I can't believe they waited a week before."
Newt Rescinds an Invite