Ethics Chair: House Will Reverse Itself on Disclosure of Free Trips

The panel’s decision to delete a disclosure requirement — as lawmakers’ travel climbs — sparked quick criticism.

National Journal
Shane Goldmacher
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Shane Goldmacher
July 3, 2014, 7:53 a.m.

House Eth­ics Com­mit­tee Chair­man Mike Con­away said Thursday that his pan­el would undo its con­tro­ver­sial de­cision to de­lete the re­quire­ment that law­makers list free trips they re­ceive on their an­nu­al dis­clos­ure re­ports.

“We will re­verse that de­cision,” Con­away said dur­ing an ap­pear­ance on a loc­al ra­dio talk show in his Texas dis­trict. “Heard first in Brown­wood, Texas,” the Re­pub­lic­an told listen­ers, one of whom provided a re­cord­ing to Na­tion­al Journ­al.

Na­tion­al Journ­al first re­por­ted earli­er this week that the Eth­ics Com­mit­tee had quietly de­leted the dis­clos­ure re­quire­ment be­hind closed doors and without any pub­lic an­nounce­ment. Watch­dog groups cri­ti­cized the man­euver and, amid pub­lic cri­ti­cism, House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi said it “must be re­versed.”

Con­away, who had pre­vi­ously avoided any pub­lic com­ment on the mat­ter, said there had been “no ma­li­cious in­tent” and de­clared Thursday, “It was a wrong de­cision and we’re go­ing to fix it.”

The Eth­ics pan­el is one of the few com­mit­tees in Con­gress equally di­vided between Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats. Con­away said he and rank­ing mem­ber Linda Sanc­hez, D-Cal­if., who had pre­vi­ously signed off on the change, had jointly de­cided to re-im­ple­ment dis­clos­ure of free trips on an­nu­al forms.

“Linda and I have re­versed the de­cision,” Con­away said. He said law­makers would have between 15 and 30 days to amend their fil­ings to in­clude the free trips that they re­ceived from private spon­sors in 2013.

Even in re­versal, Con­away de­fen­ded the change as part of “an over­all look” at dis­clos­ure as law­makers move to an elec­tron­ic-fil­ing format. He noted that even with the change the free trips are still dis­closed sep­ar­ately, and soon­er, to the House’s Of­fice of the Clerk, where they are pos­ted on­line.

“This re­port on an an­nu­al basis is re­dund­ant, it’s du­plic­at­ive,” Con­away said. ” … So it’s out there, we’re not hid­ing any­thing from any­body.”

Watch­dog groups and some trans­par­ency ad­voc­ates in Con­gress, however, have noted that the yearly forms are the most scru­tin­ized doc­u­ment on law­makers’ fin­ances. “The bot­tom line is it sends a bad mes­sage. 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,” Rep. Mi­chael Quigley, D-Ill., said in an in­ter­view earli­er this week.

Con­away said the firestorm oc­curred “only be­cause one re­port­er who makes a liv­ing jack­ing people up about these trips” wrote about the is­sue.

“We had got­ten not one com­plaint from the pub­lic,” he ad­ded of the un­an­nounced change. “Not one per­son had looked for this in­form­a­tion ex­cept this re­port­er.”

Con­away ex­pressed great­er frus­tra­tion with Demo­crats in Con­gress who had cri­ti­cized the change after the Na­tion­al Journ­al re­port.

“What I do get up­set with is my col­leagues throw­ing Linda and I un­der the bus over a de­cision that was made months ago,” he said.

He spe­cific­ally named “Mrs. Pelosi and a guy named [Rep.] Mike Fitzpatrick, who set their hair on fire — their right­eous in­dig­na­tion would be a lot more be­liev­able if they’d have said something in May when they didn’t file — when they filed their re­turn without that dis­clos­ure.”

Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Re­pub­lic­an, had sent a pub­lic let­ter to Con­away and the Eth­ics Com­mit­tee ur­ging them to re­verse the change on Wed­nes­day.

What We're Following See More »
DOCUMENTS OBTAINED BY U.S. INTEL
Putin-Linked Think Tank Developed Plan to Influence U.S. Election
3 days ago
THE LATEST

A Russian government think tank run by Putin loyalists "developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system." Two confidential documents from the Putin-backed Institute for Strategic Studies, obtained by U.S. intelligence, provide "the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election."

Source:
HELPED WIN FISA APPROVAL
FBI Relied on Dossier Allegations to Monitor Page
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"The FBI last year used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump's campaign as part of the justification" to monitor Carter Page, who was then a defense adviser to the Trump campaign. "The dossier has also been cited by FBI Director James Comey in some of his briefings to members of Congress in recent weeks."

Source:
AIR FORCE SCRAMBLES JETS IN RESPONSE
Russian Bombers Fly Near Alaska
5 days ago
WHY WE CARE
A MESSAGE TO RUSSIA?
Pentagon Deploying F-35s to Europe
1 weeks ago
THE LATEST

"The Air Force is set to deploy its high-tech, fifth-generation F-35A fighter jets to Europe this weekend as part of an effort to assure U.S. allies there who are worried about Russian aggression." The new, state-of-the-art fighters will train with European air units. "The Pentagon noted that the deployment had been long planned, meaning it was not a reaction to recent increasing tensions between the United States and Russia," although a statement noted the move is part of the "European Reassurance Initiative," which began three years ago when Russia annexed Crimea.

Source:
NOT ON SCHEDULE
Tillerson Meets Putin
1 weeks ago
BREAKING
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login