View Full Version : Lawmakers took millions in free trips: study

06-05-2006, 09:13 AM
Mon Jun 5, 2006 11:30am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Members of the U.S. Congress and their aides took free trips worth nearly $50 million paid for by corporations, trade associations and other private groups between January 2000 and June 2005, according to a study released on Monday.

Some of the 23,000 trips featured $500-a-night hotel rooms, $25,000 corporate jet rides and visits to popular spots such as Paris, Hawaii and Colorado ski resorts, said the study, by the Center for Public Integrity, American Public Media and Northwestern University's Medill News Service.

"In many instances, trip sponsors appeared to be buying access to elected officials or their advisors," the study said.

While some excursions were legitimate fact-finding missions, others appeared to have been little more than "pricey vacations" wrapped around speeches or seminars in which the lawmaker was joined by family members, the study said.

The data emerged from a nine-month-long review of congressional travel disclosure forms and coincided with ongoing federal investigations of political corruption and efforts to clean up how Congress does business.

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud charges in January and admitted he showered golf trips, sports tickets and other gifts on lawmakers in return for actions that would help his clients.

In response, the Senate and House of Representatives have voted to toughen ethics guidelines and require greater disclosure. But critics have charged more needs to be done.

Under a bill passed by the House, members would need prior approval from the House ethics committee before flying on corporate jets or accepting privately funded trips.

Lawmakers and their aides can take trips financed by outside groups to help them learn about issues or to deliver speeches, such as commencement addresses. Lobbyists may not pay for congressional trips but can help to arrange them.

Congressional trip sponsors, the study said, included Microsoft, Time Warner and The Walt Disney Co., along with the Association of American Railroads.

Tom White, an association spokesman, was quoted in the study as saying that such getaways "provide an opportunity for us to discuss our issues with members in an atmosphere where you are not time-constrained.

"If you try to talk to a member for any great length of time ... in Washington, they are simply too busy," White said.

Former House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay and his staffers accepted about a half million dollars in trips during the period under review -- more than any other congressional office, the study said.

DeLay resigned as the number two House Republican in the House and will leave Congress this week,, after he was indicted of violating campaign finance laws in his home state of Texas.

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06-05-2006, 12:53 PM
Honarable Senator Tom Delay is no longer HONORABLE & he has resigned, but he will be paid VERY WELL for eternity.

The leaders of the this country are just as bad as the criminals of this country, they are just loose to do more harm. I have no respect for a single elected official.