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June 13, 2005
Disclosure Follies Continue

The measure of the Democratic desperation to "get" GOP whip Tom DeLay has come in the number of late disclosures on travel-related expenses made by recalcitrant House members of both political parties. The New York Times reports that almost exactly half of Congress, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, have hurriedly filed travel expenses as required by House ethics rules -- some years late:

With scrutiny being heaped on Representative Tom DeLay of Texas and other lawmakers over privately financed trips, dozens of members of Congress are moving to set their travel disclosures in order.

Roughly 214 lawmakers - half Republicans and half Democrats - have filed reports late since July of last year, some waiting up to five years after taking a trip to properly disclose their travels, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, a nonpartisan group that tracks political spending. Travel records have been available for years but did not attract much attention or analysis until recently.

Political analysts say the disclosures are an effort to head off political and legal difficulties as the issue of Congressional travel draws increasing attention. The House Ethics Committee, which is not functioning while the two parties feud over staffing, is expected to decide whether to examine whether Mr. DeLay, the House majority leader, and other lawmakers violated restrictions on lobbying and travel.

Democrats, especially Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean, have attacked Tom DeLay endlessly over his travel expenses and connections to lobbyists in an attempt to sideline the highly effective House leader. Unfortunately, the effort has backfired rather spectacularly as leading Democrats found themselves in the same circumstances as DeLay. First came the exposure of numerous cases of missing or incomplete travel filings such as this story, which Democrats said indicated ethics violations for DeLay but sang the "oversight" tune when tied to dozens in their own party. Even as that still unfolds, the ties between DeLay and lobbyist Jack Abramoff, which Democrats also claimed were either illegal or unethical, turned out to be spread out between both parties -- including Abramoff's hiring of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's fundraiser while he still worked for Reid.

In today's article, we find out that another Democrat put off filing travel reports for five years, trips which involved special-interest groups that actively lobby Congress, including the nation's largest government-employee union:

Representative Luis V. Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat elected in 1992, filed reports last month detailing 23 trips he took since 2000, according to PoliticalMoneyLine.

Mr. Gutierrez reported a "fact-finding and educational" trip to Taiwan in 2001 that cost the Chinese National Association of Industry and Commerce about $8,600, records show. That same year, he went to Puerto Rico and Los Angeles to participate in an immigration rally and other events as the guest of the Service Employees International Union - a trip that cost about $3,700, records show. Mr. Gutierrez also made trips to Guadalajara and Acapulco in Mexico, to Amman in Jordan and Tel Aviv in Israel, as well as to less exotic destinations like Tampa, San Antonio and Phoenix.

No one says these trips are illegal, although voters who have now seen these figures for the first time could be forgiven that impression. Democratic claims that their use by DeLay amounts to an ethics violation when they have drunk deeply from the same well amply demonstrates that their issue with DeLay has nothing to do with upholding House ethics but in sidelining DeLay's political expertise. Pat Toomey, a former Congressman, explains that some of this travel does make officeholders more effective as legislators, but to be aware of itineraries when reviewing congressional travel:

Former Representative Pat Toomey, a Republican who now heads the conservative Club for Growth, said a trip to Israel and Jordan while in office was constructive.

"It was a very valuable crash course and education in the politics, the geography and some of the history," Mr. Toomey said. He also said there was the potential for abuse: "If you discover a trip to the Bahamas in January, it might be worth a look at the itinerary."

Funny he should mention that. Pelosi, who prompted the controversy with her attacks on Delay, still has yet to answer for the trip to Havana taken by Catlin O'Neill, her staffer and Tip O'Neill's granddaughter, in December 2004 for "religious education", as she described the "official duties" involved in the trip. Nor has Pelosi explained why this education had to take place in Havana on behalf of a church which issues instant on-line ordinations that require no instruction whatsoever.

If, like me, you've noticed that Tom DeLay's name does not come up in Democrats' speeches much these days, open questions such as these provide the reason why.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 13, 2005 12:55 PM

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» Captain Ed is on a roll today from Media Lies
First he has a post about the House ethics mess. Turns out that the problems with travel are a bit greater than first thought.

Roughly 214 lawmakers - ...
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Tracked on June 13, 2005 9:52 PM

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