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Speaker Boehner makes surprise stop in HMB

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Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2012 5:13 pm | Updated: 3:29 pm, Fri May 25, 2012.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the length of time that transpired between the dinner and the party's call to add money to the tip. That has been corrected in this version.

He may be the nation’s foremost fiscal conservative, but Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner will still open his wallet for some good seafood.

The Ohio congressman swept through Half Moon Bay for dinner earlier this week while coming out to the Peninsula on a fundraising tour. Boehner was in the area to speak at a $1,000-a-plate dinner in Woodside to raise money for his upcoming re-election campaign.

The day before the fundraiser, Boehner landed his plane at the Half Moon Bay Airport, and while in town he wanted to try out some local cuisine.

Sam’s Chowder House owner Paul Shenkman says he first became suspicious that someone big was coming when he spotted some San Mateo County Sheriff’s deputies snooping around the restaurant parking lot. Later that evening, a team of Secret Service agents approached him and asked if a VIP could have the private back room. That was fine, said Shenkman, who was mystified who his guest would be.

“They didn’t tell me who it was,” he said. “It was a lot of cloak and dagger stuff.”

Just minutes before a fleet of black SUVs drove up to the restaurant, a Secret Service agent told Shenkman that the Speaker of the House would be dining there. Boehner came in through a back entrance with three associates, and they sat down to eat with his eight-person security entourage.

One of the Boehner’s security detail had reportedly eaten at the restaurant before and had recommended the Speaker try it while in town.

The speaker tried an assortment of seafood, including ahi tuna, shrimp, clams, oysters and ceviche along with a bowl of clam chowder. The Secret Service agents all ate the restaurant’s signature lobster rolls.

Boehner, who has staked his political career on spending reductions, nonetheless made no attempt to haggle down the costs of his meal. He paid the bill and posed for a couple pictures with Shenkman, who politely offered to send the speaker a framed copy to hang up.

The group left in a hurry, leaving a tip that reportedly left the server feeling a little unappreciated.

An hour later, a Secret Service agent phoned Sam’s Chowder House, saying he realized they skimped on the tip. He asked the restaurant to add another $30 to the bill.

Boehner wasn’t the only high-level politician in the area for a fundraiser this week. The speaker’s visit coincided with a fundraising tour by President Barack Obama with events in Woodside, Redwood City and San Jose.

When he first saw the Secret Service agents patrolling his restaurant, Shenkman initially believed it might actually be the president who was coming by. He related this to one of the Secret Service agents.

“The agent said, ‘Nah. For that, we would’ve closed the whole restaurant,” Shenkman recalled.

Welcome to the discussion.


  • George posted at 4:43 pm on Fri, May 25, 2012.

    George Posts: 610

    From bottom to top, My oh my, Francis; what pretty eyes you have. And those ears!!!...

    It's nice to know that some of our federal tax dollars are ending up in local pockets and as much distain as I have for Mr Boner, I hope he enjoyed the meal and our little slice of Heaven.

    Further, I sure hope the feds don't come back and investigate Paul's fees or the (oops, slipped my mind) tip. They have been known to do that in these parts.

    The perfect guest: come here, enjoy local cuisine, open the wallet and leave. Then, call back and amp the expenditure. My kind of guest.

  • Clay Lambert posted at 3:25 pm on Fri, May 25, 2012.

    Clay Lambert Posts: 15 Staff

    I spoke with Sam's owner Paul Shenkman today and he wants folks to know that, from his perspective, the Boehner party were gracious guests -- and he's sure the Speaker wasn't trying to stiff the wait staff. (Contrary to our reporting, Shenkman says he didn't tell our reporter that the waiter felt unappreciated. He also says the security detail handled payment. On these points, our reporter remembers the conversation differently. Make of that what you will.)
    There was one error in our story: Shenkman says Boehner's staff called an hour later to make the adjustment to the tip -- not a day later as we originally reported. We're going to note that correction in our story.

  • John Charles Ullom posted at 10:47 am on Fri, May 25, 2012.

    John Charles Ullom Posts: 1083

    Obama's War on White guys who use tanning booths has got to be putting a dent in Speaker Boehner's wallet.

    One day later, a Secret Service agent phoned Sam’s Chowder House, saying he realized they skimped on the tip. He asked the restaurant to add another $30 to the bill.

    Sounds like a fiscal conservative to me.

  • HoneyBadger posted at 9:30 am on Fri, May 25, 2012.

    HoneyBadger Posts: 29

    He may be the current Majority Leader of the House, but he's not the "foremost fiscal conservative." He's a big government Republican that had the good fortune to become speaker because of the Tea Party.


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