The disclosure requirements for congressional expeditions underwritten by foreign nations aren't just weak—they're porous. Because lawmakers don't reveal the trips to any central authority, no one is checking, or even can check, if they've properly revealed their travels on annual financial-disclosure forms.
For instance, Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., went to Taiwan in May 2011 but never disclosed the trip. National Journal learned of his travels through a review of emails filed by lobbyists with Park Strategies. After our inquiries, Gingrey spokesman Cameron Harley said the trip had been "inadvertently left off the congressman's 2011 financial-disclosure statement due to an administrative oversight which has since been rectified."
There is no way to know how common such underreporting is.
What is clear is that if information on lawmakers' jaunts is sparse, the disclosure of their aides' trips is literally nonexistent. About 75 percent of the people who work on Capitol Hill are not required to file financial forms at all. So when these lower-level aides travel abroad on cultural-exchange trips, it is never disclosed.