Congress Took More Free Trips in 2013 Than in Any Year Since the Abramoff Reforms

The tally: 1,887 trips at a cost of $6 million, new data from LegiStorm shows.

Picture taken 25 October 2007 from the Latin American Tower in Mexico City of an airliner flying at sunset in front of the snow-capped Iztaccihuatl extinct volcano, 120 km east from the capital.
National Journal
Shane Goldmacher
Feb. 3, 2014, 11:43 a.m.

Mem­bers of Con­gress and their aides took more free trips around the world in 2013 than in any year since new re­stric­tions were put in place after the Jack Ab­ramoff in­flu­ence-ped­dling scan­dal.

The web­site Le­giS­torm, which com­piles con­gres­sion­al travel re­cords, said Monday that law­makers and their staffs took a com­bined 1,887 free trips last year for a total cost of al­most $6 mil­lion.

That amount is more than double the sum private groups spent on con­gres­sion­al trips in 2008, the first full year that the tightened travel rules of 2007 went in­to ef­fect. The total num­ber of trips has bounded up­ward by more than 60 per­cent since 2008 as well.

Last year, law­makers en­joyed all-ex­penses-paid jour­neys to Ire­land, Mo­rocco, France, South Africa, Is­rael, Tur­key, and many more des­tin­a­tions, ac­cord­ing to House travel re­cords.

Lob­by­ists and those who em­ploy them have not been al­lowed to dir­ectly fin­ance privately fun­ded con­gres­sion­al travel abroad since 2007. But as Na­tion­al Journ­al doc­u­mented earli­er this year, many of the private in­terests foot­ing the bill for in­ter­na­tion­al con­gres­sion­al travel are tied closely to lob­by­ing op­er­a­tions in Wash­ing­ton.

Some even share staff and of­fice space with lob­by­ing shops. The Amer­ica Is­rael Edu­ca­tion Found­a­tion, which spent $1.7 mil­lion on con­gres­sion­al travel in 2013, more than any oth­er group, shares an ad­dress with the in­flu­en­tial Amer­ic­an Is­rael Pub­lic Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, for in­stance.

Over­all, Is­rael was the most pop­u­lar des­tin­a­tion, ac­count­ing for $2 mil­lion in travel — more than one-third of the total travel ex­penses to all des­tin­a­tions.

The total num­ber of con­gres­sion­al trips still hasn’t reached the peak of 2003 through 2005, when there were more than 4,000 an­nu­al con­gres­sion­al voy­ages at an av­er­age cost of about $10 mil­lion.

But the num­ber has been stead­ily climb­ing since Con­gress began tight­en­ing its rules close to sev­en years ago, as the stigma of fly­ing abroad on a private group’s dime has dimmed. The pre­vi­ous high, un­der the cur­rent rules, was 1,621 trips that cost $5.88 mil­lion in 2011, ac­cord­ing to Le­giS­torm.

Law­makers are al­lowed — and of­ten do — bring their spouses along on the trips, adding to the al­lure. While the it­in­er­ar­ies must be ap­proved in ad­vance by the House Eth­ics Com­mit­tee, the trips don’t al­ways sound too stress­ful.

In one of the last trips a law­maker took in 2013, Rep. Lu­is Gu­ti­er­rez, D-Ill., and his wife headed to Pu­erto Rico in Decem­ber. They stayed at the El Con­quista­dor Re­sort, a Wal­dorf As­tor­ia prop­erty “uniquely nestled on a cliff over­look­ing the At­lantic Ocean and the Carib­bean Sea,” ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

The Coun­cil of State Gov­ern­ments East­ern Re­gion­al Con­fer­ence picked up the tab. The an­nu­al meet­ing’s theme was “Suc­ceed­ing in a Time of Aus­ter­ity.”

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4704) }}

What We're Following See More »
BACKING OUT ON BERNIE
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

AKNOWLEDGING THE INEVITABLE
UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Source:
AP KEEPING COUNT
Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Source:
TRUMP FLOATED IDEA ON JIMMY KIMMEL’S SHOW
Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
3 days ago
THE LATEST
CAMPAIGNS INJECTED NEW AD MONEY
California: It’s Not Over Yet
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.

Source:
×