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Newt Gingrich Group Honors, Shakes Down, Then (Ooops!) Disinvites Strip Club Owner

5 years ago
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When Dallas "gentlemen's club" owner Dawn Rizos learned that a group led by Newt Gingrich picked her as a 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year, she was "very honored."

Now, she's very disappointed.

The former House Speaker's American Solutions for Winning the Future told her Tuesday it has rescinded the award, saying it had made a mistake.

"We were very honored to receive this award and it's really kind of rude for them to change their minds at the last minute," said Rizos, owner of The Lodge, which bills itself as "the #1 Gentlemen's Club in America."

On September 2, Rizos received a fax from Gingrich's group, telling her that she had been selected to represent Texas as the 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year and inviting her to "dine privately with Newt" as part of an exclusive group of less than 50 business leaders. The invitation, printed on Gingrich's letterhead, included a promise that the Oct. 7 dinner would be "unlike any political event you've ever been to," and a cheerful assurance that "Newt is looking forward to hearing your ideas."

Michael Precker, a Lodge spokesman, told Politics Daily that when he called American Solutions he was told the group would need $5,000 to confirm Rizos' attendance. She sent in her check and received a reply with Gingrich's signature, thanking Rizos for her "willingness to take a leadership role" and for her contribution. "I look forward to meeting you and hearing more about your business," he added.

On Tuesday, though, event organizers called to say they had pulled Rizos' invitation to the dinner along with her award. She said that the group told her they had mistaken her business for one with the same name as her parent company, DCG, Inc.

American Solutions could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Rizos confirmed that the group had returned her money.

Two weeks ago, American Solutions pulled an award to Allison Vivas, president of Pink Visual, an adult entertainment studio, after Vivas released a statement saying she was both "honored and more than a little surprised" at being selected by Gingrich. A spokesman for American Solutions told Media Matters that the award had been given in error.

As for Rizos, she still hopes to have an opportunity to meet with the former congressman soon, describing him as "a great American" and numbering among her regrets that she wouldn't be able to have a picture taken with him that she could display in the club. "We admire Newt Gingrich's positions on personal responsibility, self-reliance, and, especially, the need to keep the government out of our private lives," she said. "We have a lot to talk about."
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