Bilbray still quiet about cigar parties

Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Solana Beach) still is refusing to talk about the cigar club parties he and his senior staff attended and what, if any, discussions they had with lobbyists at the soirées. His spokesman, Fritz Chaleff, did not return phone calls on Friday and today seeking an interview with the congressman.

Government ethics experts called for the congressman’s office to be open about Staff Congressional Cigar Association activities after the Watchdog Institute reported Bilbray had advanced bills that would benefit the clients of some lobbyists connected to the club. The editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune also demanded transparency.

Bilbray’s senior policy adviser, Gary Kline, is an officer of the club. He also has not returned calls seeking an interview.

In July, the Huffington Post first reported lobbyists were on the board of the club and involved in hosting its parties. The cigar association is one of 20 House-approved staff groups. Bilbray sponsored it in April 2009.

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