Are ethics reforms unraveling? Lawmakers back on junketing spree
WASHINGTON — Lawmakers are once again taking advantage of their summer recess to race around the globe on privately financed tours to places such as China, the Middle East and Scotland — trips that watchdog groups cite as evidence that congressional ethics reforms are unraveling.
Critics of such trips say it is unseemly for members of the House and Senate to take trips bankrolled by people and organizations with specific legislative desires.
“It's money well spent by lobbying groups, but for the American public, there is no benefit,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the consumer group Public Citizen.
Congress clamped down on such travel in 2007 after disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's influence-peddling scandal tainted many Republicans with close ties to him, contributing to their 2006 election losses in the House of Representatives.
Abramoff — convicted and imprisoned on fraud and conspiracy charges — paid for lawmakers he was trying to sway on legislative matters, including casino gambling, to fly away for lavish junkets, such as golf outings in Scotland.
Former Republican Congressman Bob Ney and some former congressional and White House aides were convicted of charges arising from the Abramoff scandal.
Nearly 5,000 trips, costing lobbyists $10 million, were taken in 2005. This was a peak that fell to 1,846 in 2006 and then further after reforms were put in place.
Lately, the number of privately financed trips offered by corporate interests, lobbyists, universities and foreign governments, including China, have been rising. Trips this year so far total 1,363, at a cost to the hosts of $3.2 million, according to figures collected by LegiStorm, a nonpartisan watchdog group.
There are 100 Senators and 435 members of the House.
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments â either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.