The dilemma for every big business trying to curry favor with a powerful member of Congress: what to get the US Senator who has everthing?

Aegon today paid for a big breakfast for Chuck Grassley & the Iowans who’re here at the RNC in NYC. The Iowans were giddy. After a no-food-served morning delegate meeting on Monday and a “continental breakfast” buffet on Tuesday morning, the Iowans walked into a different dimension this Wednesday morning. Made to order omelets. Freshly-brewed espresso. An array of other hearty fare, including fruit, breakfast meats and stick-to-your-ribs porridge (or it may have been oatmeal, I couldn’t really tell and didn’t think it polite to get too close to a delegate’s bowl — probably not wise to get in the way of such good food, either).

A company man at one point presented Grassley with his gift: a Wheaties box with the Senator’s picture on it.
“In keeping with the theme, a breakfast of champions, we decided to give something, I mean, when someone has the tenure and the experience that Senator Grassley has, what can you give him that he has not ever gotten before?” Pat Baird, an Aegon executive, asked the crowd. “And we have something. And I’m sure Senator Grassley does not have this in his office.”

(At this point, the Wheaties box is revealed to Grassley & the crowd)

“Thank you,” Grassley said, amidst applause and a few oohs and ahs from the crowd. “Thank you.”

“The first question I asked, just so you know, is ‘Are we violating any copyright or anything else? I think I’ve got four- or five-hundred lawsuits against Aegon right now. Is this going to be another?’ And I was assured that Wheaties is pleased and proud to have Senator Grassley on their Wheaties box, and just as pleased and proud as I am to introduce you this morning, Senator Grassley,” Baird said.

I have no way of measuring that on my own “pleased and proud” scale, but I did express pleasure today over my own lunch, served to me and paid for by me at the Planet Hollywood in Times Square. (The southwest chicken salad was quite good.) An AP photographer who’s based in Des Moines, Charlie Niebergal, called me late this morning to see if I wanted to get together for lunch. I said yes. Charlie’s married to one of my college chums, and he is one of the quickest wits I know. Charlie’s working in Madison Square Garden for AP. You might see him on t.v. (if you’re watching at home) as he is stationed on stage, to the side, along with seven other photographers in a very small area. It was Charlie, from that vantage point, who snapped Monday night’s picture of Michael Moore making the “L” sign for loser as the repubs booed him.

Iowa Republicans might have booed Jim Leach, the Congressman, today if they had spied the newspaper he had tucked under his arm as he strolled into a news conference Senator Grassley was having with Iowa reporters today. When I asked Leach if he was a New York Times reader, he replied that it was the only free paper he could find. Now that’s an answer that might get him out of the caning conservatives might have meted out had he been caught with that “liberal rag” (although it might not be a bad campaign tactic in Iowa City). As one Iowan complained as they waited for the elevator and saw the front page of the Times “Of course they don’t have Arnould’s picture on the front.” Today’s front page pic in the Times is from a bombing in Israel. Every morning, there are piles of New York Times in the elevator bay on each floor, and I know this won’t shock you, but few of the Iowa repubs are taking their free copy.

The other incongruity of the day: a cup of espresso sitting right in front of Grassley.

“Is that your espresso, Senator?” I asked.

“No, no, no,” Grassley replied. “I’m drinking this water.” The general consensus among reporters and the Grassley aide sitting around the coffee table was that the espresso belonged to someone else.

Ray Hoffman, a restaurant owner and stock broker from Sioux City, was invited to open the NASDAQ this morning. He came back with a pretty cool picture. The NASDAQers had snapped a photo on his way in, did some computer editing and as he left, Hoffman was presented with a finished product that showed his torso on the Jumbotron in Times Square. I can think of a lot of places I’d want my torso superimposed. I’ll be makin’ a list and checkin’ it twice, just to find out…

OH, and I did find out what CRANDIC stands for. You’ll recall the goodie bag Paul Pate gave to delegates included a railroad engineer’s cap with the phrase CRANDIC on it. Mayor Pate says that stands for Cedar Rapids and Iowa City railway. So CR AND IC or CRANDIC. I’m not going to say another word.