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The rock that Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean picked up to throw at Tom DeLay continues to expose lots of worms instead, as the escapades of traveling Congressmen continues to expand. The Washington Post reports today that an analysis of the data now disclosed by representatives and their staffs show that some of them accept substantial travel from groups for which the Congressmen provide oversight through committee assignments:
Senior House committee Republicans and Democrats frequently travel at the expense of companies and associations in the industries they oversee, according to financial records released yesterday.
The trips are legal, as long as they are paid for by businesses and not by registered lobbyists. But the sheer volume of them -- along with the alluring destinations, not notably related to the business at hand -- could add impetus to calls for greater restrictions when the House ethics committee carries out a directive issued by Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) last month to "look at the whole travel issue."
Hastert's call for the ethics committee to provide members with clearer guidelines followed a spate of news reports about trips that lawmakers had taken in the company of lobbyists, often with a nonprofit group listed as paying the tab.
The number and extent of these junkets make the jaw drop. While there may be some argument for travel to ensure that representatives get a true picture of the issues before them, the repetition and the itineraries give the appearance that something less noble and more banal is happening with our public servants. Jim Oberstar (D), to use a Minnesota example, took four trips paid by industry and union groups with serious axes to grind before his Transportation Committee -- and that was just within 16 months. Joe Barton (R-TX) has taken several industry-financed trips since ascending to the chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, bringing his wife along to such places as Boca Raton, Las Vegas, and Palm Springs -- all since late 2004.
Thanks to Pelosi and Dean, all of this has started to finally see the light of day. I'm sure their colleagues will thank them for picking up that rock to shed some sunlight on these legal but sleazy practices -- only next time, they'll wish the duo had stepped outside her glass house before throwing it.Sphere It View blog reactions
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