TAMPA -- Last night I tried to correct for my total ignorance of area restaurants by Yelp-ing for something a short drive from the convention center. Far enough away to breathe, at least. I picked SideBern's, a fine gourmet place, with a menu bereft of boring foods. A few reporter friends met me there; one of them waved when Sen. Ron Johnson walked into the place and headed to a back room.
Some of the reporters asked for a check at 8:30, and I made a quick trip to the restroom. On the way there I could see the glass-enclosed private room that Johnson had been ushered into. He was making a point to a man who leaned forward, giving me a quick -- unexpected! -- glance at his face. It was David Koch, whom I had seen plenty of times at Americans for Prosperity events, and who'd accidentally helped my career years earlier by funding the Reason Foundation. So I conducted my essential business, headed back to sign the dinner check, and toldthe remainin still-dining journos that one of the world's wealthiest men was eating where we were eating. We'd obviously picked a solid dining establishment.
This was where things went pear-shaped. One of the journos snapped a sneaky photo of the billionaire, because... well, I don't know why, exactly. Shortly thereafter, one of the Johnson/Koch dining companions headed out of the back room, found a waitress, and engaged her in a quick, matter-of-fact conversation. I could not hear it, but I saw the guy miming a camera. I left, but shortly after this, another associate emerged from the back room to ask the journos to cool off, lest they attract "occupy friends."
That's about as heated as it got. Going into the convention, I'd wondered if Koch's decision to serve as a delegate from New York would expose him to attention that he doesn't usually court. The answer is now on Instagram.
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