Nancy Pelosi Says Decision to Delete Reporting Requirement for Free Trips ‘Must Be Reversed’

A spokesman for Speaker Boehner says Democrats already signed off on “bipartisan change to reduce duplicative paperwork.”

Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a news conference June 12, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Shane Goldmacher
July 1, 2014, 9:15 a.m.

House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi said Tues­day that the House Eth­ics Com­mit­tee’s de­cision to stop re­quir­ing law­makers to pub­lish the free trips they take on their an­nu­al dis­clos­ure forms “must be re­versed.” But while Pelosi was quick to con­demn the re­duced dis­clos­ure, mem­bers of her own party had pre­vi­ously signed off on the change.

The Eth­ics Com­mit­tee is one of the few pan­els in Con­gress di­vided equally between Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats. That means that rank­ing mem­ber Linda Sanc­hez, D-Cal­if., and her Demo­crat­ic col­leagues (Reps. Mi­chael Cap­uano, Yvette Clarke, and Ted Deutch and Del. Pedro Pier­lu­isi) had to have ap­proved the de­leted dis­clos­ure re­quire­ment, along with Re­pub­lic­ans led by com­mit­tee Chair­man Mi­chael Con­away of Texas.

“Rep. Pelosi’s staff needs to talk to her rep­res­ent­at­ive on the Eth­ics Com­mit­tee, who signed off on this bi­par­tis­an change to re­duce du­plic­at­ive pa­per­work,” said Mi­chael Steel, a spokes­man for House Speak­er John Boehner.

An aide to Pelosi con­firmed that she was un­aware of the new policy un­til Na­tion­al Journ­al re­por­ted late Monday that the Eth­ics pan­el had quietly de­leted the re­quire­ment that all-ex­penses-paid jour­neys fun­ded by private groups be pub­lished on law­makers’ an­nu­al fin­an­cial-dis­clos­ure forms.

Sanc­hez’s of­fice re­ferred ques­tions to the Eth­ics Com­mit­tee on Monday and did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Tues­day.

Law­makers’ privately sponsored trips must still be re­por­ted sep­ar­ately to the House’s Of­fice of the Clerk with­in 15 days of travel and pub­lished on­line there. But the yearly forms of law­makers are the primary source of fin­an­cial in­form­a­tion on them, and among the most scru­tin­ized. Free trips for law­makers have been re­por­ted there since the form’s cre­ation in the late 1970s.

“While the com­mit­tee’s aim was to sim­pli­fy the dis­clos­ure pro­cess, Con­gress must al­ways move in the dir­ec­tion of more dis­clos­ure, not less,” Pelosi said in her state­ment Tues­day.

The House Eth­ics Com­mit­tee had de­clined to com­ment on Monday why it made the change. But in a rare pub­lic state­ment on Tues­day, Tom Rust, the com­mit­tee’s chief coun­sel, said that “the com­mit­tee’s non­par­tis­an staff re­com­men­ded a num­ber of changes to the fin­an­cial-dis­clos­ure forms, in­clud­ing elim­in­at­ing the need to re­port less in­form­a­tion about private travel than the trav­el­er had already pub­licly dis­closed.”

Along with Pelosi, oth­er Demo­crat­ic law­makers dis­agreed with the re­moved dis­clos­ure re­quire­ment on Tues­day. “The bot­tom line is it sends a bad mes­sage,” Rep. Mi­chael Quigley, D-Ill., a co­chair of the Con­gres­sion­al Trans­par­ency Caucus, said in an in­ter­view. “With the pub­lic’s trust in Con­gress at an all-time low, you don’t want to send a mes­sage that it can be more dif­fi­cult to find out in­form­a­tion.”

Quigley de­clined to cri­ti­cize his Demo­crat­ic col­leagues on the Eth­ics pan­el who had signed off on the re­duced dis­clos­ure. “I don’t think they were try­ing to do something in­ap­pro­pri­ate,” he said. “I just think they had a dif­fer­ent point of view.”

Quigley said “du­plic­at­ive” re­port­ing isn’t a bad thing and that “one-stop shop­ping” is crit­ic­al for com­plete pub­lic dis­clos­ure. “Very few people are so savvy that they know how to find things and they should all be in one spot as a res­ult,” Quigley said. “They’re not like, ‘I’ve looked at his per­son­al dis­clos­ure and now I have to look at the clerk’s site to get this in­form­a­tion.’ “

Rep. Dave Loeb­sack, D-Iowa, said in a state­ment Tues­day that he will in­tro­duce le­gis­la­tion to re­verse the rule upon the House’s re­turn from its Ju­ly 4 con­gres­sion­al re­cess. “These kinds of back­room deals and chan­ging of the rules in the middle of the night is ex­actly why Con­gress has a lower ap­prov­al rat­ing than cock­roaches and traffic jams,” he said.

Pelosi ad­ded that if the Eth­ics Com­mit­tee does not re­verse it­self on its own, “we will call upon the speak­er to al­low a vote on le­gis­la­tion to re­verse this de­cision.”

Steel’s state­ment that this was a “bi­par­tis­an change to re­duce du­plic­at­ive pa­per­work,” however, sug­gests such a vote is un­likely.

The de­le­tion of the re­quire­ment to re­port trips on yearly fin­an­cial forms comes as law­makers are in­creas­ingly trav­el­ing the world on private groups’ dime. In 2013, law­makers and their aides par­ti­cip­ated in nearly 1,900 trips at a cost of more than $6 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Le­gis­torm, which com­piles travel re­cords.

What We're Following See More »
A DARK CLOUD OVER TRUMP?
Snowstorm Could Impact Primary Turnout
1 days ago
THE LATEST

A snowstorm is supposed to hit New Hampshire today and “linger into Primary Tuesday.” GOP consultant Ron Kaufman said lower turnout should help candidates who have spent a lot of time in the state tending to retail politicking. Donald Trump “has acknowledged that he needs to step up his ground-game, and a heavy snowfall could depress his figures relative to more organized candidates.”

Source:
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
A Shake-Up in the Offing in the Clinton Camp?
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

Anticipating a primary loss in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Hillary and Bill Clinton “are considering staffing and strategy changes” to their campaign. Sources tell Politico that the Clintons are likely to layer over top officials with experienced talent, rather than fire their staff en masse.

Source:
THE LAST ROUND OF NEW HAMPSHIRE POLLS
Trump Is Still Ahead, but Who’s in Second?
1 days ago
THE LATEST

We may not be talking about New Hampshire primary polls for another three-and-a-half years, so here goes:

  • American Research Group’s tracking poll has Donald Trump in the lead with 30% support, followed by Marco Rubio and John Kasich tying for second place at 16%. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton 53%-41%.
  • The 7 News/UMass Lowell tracking poll has Trump way out front with 34%, followed by Rubio and Ted Cruz with 13% apiece. Among the Democrats, Sanders is in front 56%-40%.
  • A Gravis poll puts Trump ahead with 28%, followed by Kasich with 17% and Rubio with 15%.
IT’S ALL ABOUT SECOND PLACE
CNN Calls the Primary for Sanders and Trump
17 hours ago
THE LATEST

Well that didn’t take long. CNN has already declared Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump the winners of the New Hampshire primary, leaving the rest of the candidates to fight for the scraps. Five minutes later, the Associated Press echoed CNN’s call.

Source:
×