Congressmen took free trips worth $50m
Thomas Ferraro, Reuters
Tuesday June 6, 2006
Members of the US Congress and their aides took free trips worth nearly $50m paid for by corporations, trade associations and other private groups between January 2000 and June 2005, according to a study published yesterday.
Some of the 23,000 trips featured hotel rooms costing $500 a night, $25,000 corporate jet rides and visits to popular spots such as Paris, Hawaii and Colorado ski resorts, said the research, conducted by the Centre 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 advisers," 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 member of Congress was joined by family members.
The data emerged from a nine-month review of congressional travel disclosure forms and coincided with continuing federal inquiry into corruption and efforts to clean up how Congress does business.
The lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud charges in January and admitted that he had showered golf trips, sports tickets and other gifts on members of Congress 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 degrees of disclosure. But critics say more needs to be done.
Congressional trip sponsors, the study said, included Microsoft, Time Warner, the Walt Disney Company and the Association of American Railroads.