Boehm Warns About Special Interest Funding of Congressional Travel

Rangel in lounge chairAmanda Becker reports in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call today that outside groups spent $3.6 million to sponsor foreign trips for members of Congress and their staffs in 2012.  The article includes my comments:

“Congressmen are frequently accused of living inside a bubble. So you can make a good case that members should be traveling and getting to see certain things overseas,” Boehm said.

“But all too often they have been arranged by groups that have very pronounced legislative interests,” he added. “And what’s more enticing than having the possibility of talking [to lawmakers] in a relaxed, vacation resort-type setting?”

Foreign travel by members of Congress that is paid for by outside groups is subject to regulations under the House Rules. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), in photo, ignored the regulations in 2008 by accepting corporate-funded Caribbean junkets. He was forced to resign his Ways and Means Chairmanship after being admonished by the House Ethics Committee.

NLPC President Peter Flaherty exposed Rangel’s participation in an event in sunny St. Maarten. The Ethics Committee acted on the basis of Flaherty’s photographs, audio recordings and other materials he gathered at the event organized by Karl Rodney, the publisher of a newspaper called Carib News.

Rodney admitted to lying to the House Ethics Committee about the source of funds for conferences in the Caribbean during 2007 and 2008 that were underwritten by big companies like Citigroup and Pfizer.

House Rules on travel were tightened in 2007. They now prohibit members of Congress from accepting travel on multi-day trips from corporations that employ federal lobbyists, either directly or indirectly through third-party groups like the Carib News.