House Ethics Committee weakens lobbyist-funded travel disclosure

posted at 4:01 pm on July 1, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

What a coincidence — and just as lobbyist-funded travel is on the increase, too! Faced with heightened criticism over free junkets, the House Ethics Committee has acted … to make it easier to keep those trips quiet:

It’s going to be a little more difficult to ferret out which members of Congress are lavished with all-expenses-paid trips around the world after the House has quietly stripped away the requirement that such privately sponsored travel be included on lawmakers’ annual financial-disclosure forms.

The move, made behind closed doors and without a public announcement by the House Ethics Committee, reverses more than three decades of precedent. Gifts of free travel to lawmakers have appeared on the yearly financial form dating back its creation in the late 1970s, after the Watergate scandal. National Journal uncovered the deleted disclosure requirement when analyzing the most recent batch of yearly filings. …

Free trips paid for by private groups must still be reported separately to the House’s Office of the Clerk and disclosed there. But they will now be absent from the chief document that reporters, watchdogs, and members of the public have used for decades to scrutinize lawmakers’ finances. …

The change occurs as free travel, which critics have criticized as thinly veiled junkets, has come back into vogue. Last year, members of Congress and their aides took more free trips than in any year since the influence-peddling scandal that sent lobbyist Jack Abramoff to prison. There were nearly 1,900 trips at a cost of more than $6 million last year, according to Legistorm, which compiles travel records.

Just to be clear, lobbyist-funded travel will still have to be disclosed, but now that required disclosure is entirely internal. Prior to this decision, each member had to include this information in annual reports that were publicly available, and so did members of their staffs. Whether individual members of the House disclose it publicly now will be left entirely up to them from this year forward. Call me cynical, but I doubt many will take the time to step forward on their own to disclose their high-priced lobbyist junkets without being compelled to do so.

Not only is funding for those trips able to be kept quiet, so was the rule change itself. As noted above, NJ had to go looking for it, although it’s also tempting to wonder whether a disgruntled source on Capitol Hill gave Shane Goldmacher a heads-up on where to look. That would at least give some hope that a few people in the Beltway understand just how disgusted this will make everyone else outside of it.

So far, though, that doesn’t apply to Ethics committee leadership, which unsurprisingly declined to comment:

House Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, did not return a call for comment; ranking member Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., referred questions to committee staff. The committee declined to comment.

Quelle surprise.


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Transparency for thee…

Blame the Rs more than the D-rats, always.

Schadenfreude on July 1, 2014 at 4:04 PM

The Rs do NOT deserve the senate.

Schadenfreude on July 1, 2014 at 4:05 PM

I thought brave Tea Party heroes like Trey Gowdy, Michelle Bachmann, Louise Goehmert would have prevented this..

What happened Tea Party???

Ned Pepper on July 1, 2014 at 4:07 PM

I will not vote for any democrat. I will not vote for any GOPe candidate.

Every single incumbent that has not actively worked for and in support of our constitution and SMALL government should be not only ejected from his/her job, but tossed into the Pacific gyre to choke on plastic and drown.

Diluculo on July 1, 2014 at 4:07 PM

The very name House Ethics Committee has such a nice oxymoronic ring to it.

Drained Brain on July 1, 2014 at 4:08 PM

Top down corruption.

There is no other excuse for this action.

Freddy on July 1, 2014 at 4:10 PM

What happened Tea Party???

Ned Pepper on July 1, 2014 at 4:07 PM

TRUST NO ONE.

Never take it for granted that someone with a “TEA PARTY” affiliation is going to give you what you want if you want freedom and small government. Even these guys need to have their feet held to the fire.

If it takes voting them out too, so be it. Keep the revolving door moving until we get what’s right for the country, no quarter for the wicked fascist progressive pigs.

Diluculo on July 1, 2014 at 4:10 PM

Hel-LO, RNC and Republican congress-people. You approved this, did you not?

OK then, just wanted to make sure.

MikeHu on July 1, 2014 at 4:10 PM

What a surprise…I am shocked they don’t want to tell the voters that they are getting wined and dined by lobbyist.

Shocked I am telling you…utterly shocked. They all seem such nice men and women, I am sure nothing untoward is happening.

These pigs are very polite, they move over to make sure all of the pigs at the trough get fed…that’s how nice they are.

right2bright on July 1, 2014 at 4:12 PM

Thad Cochran Rehabilitation Act of 2014.

BuckeyeSam on July 1, 2014 at 4:14 PM

They’re all just so so sure it’ll be the next guy who meets the pitch forks — never them.

Rational Thought on July 1, 2014 at 4:15 PM

Diluculo on July 1, 2014 at 4:10 PM

Never mind him, he’s just trolling.

Buck Farky on July 1, 2014 at 4:18 PM

Fail.

Good Lt on July 1, 2014 at 4:19 PM

Hey, if F&F, Benghazi, IRS, Congressional insider trading, Congressional Obamacare subsidies, NSA domestic spying, unconstitutional executive orders, the VA scandal can’t get people into the streets demanding accountability then nothing will. I remember a Tea Party that wasn’t afraid to take it to the streets but once they got called some names they cowed away into the shadows almost like they were verifying the name calling. Color me cynical.

Jackson on July 1, 2014 at 4:23 PM

Faced with heightened criticism over free junkets, the House LACK OF Ethics Committee has acted … to make it easier to keep those trips quiet:

Winning!

climbnjump on July 1, 2014 at 4:25 PM

Throw them all out and start over.

sadatoni on July 1, 2014 at 4:27 PM

House Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, did not return a call for comment; ranking member Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., referred questions to committee staff. The committee declined to comment.

The Ruling Class versus the rest of us.

Ward Cleaver on July 1, 2014 at 4:27 PM

The House Ethics Committee has no ethics.

oscarwilde on July 1, 2014 at 4:28 PM

The very name House Ethics Committee has such a nice oxymoronic ring to it.

Drained Brain on July 1, 2014 at 4:08 PM

They flat out don’t even try to make things even appear to be ethical.

hawkeye54 on July 1, 2014 at 4:32 PM

The House Ethics Committee has no ethics.

oscarwilde on July 1, 2014 at 4:28 PM

A reflection of the entire House. The committee scrutinizes things and if there is a hint of it being ethical its tossed out.

hawkeye54 on July 1, 2014 at 4:33 PM

Continue to vote El PRL, suckers! They’re merely greasing the skids for the return of the gavel (though not the majority just yet) to Pelosi.

Steve Eggleston on July 1, 2014 at 4:36 PM

Did Trey Gowdy vote for this?

Jackson on July 1, 2014 at 4:38 PM

So hey, a republican held house can get legislation accomplished after all!

GOP isn’t the do-nothing party after all!

everdiso on July 1, 2014 at 4:40 PM

The very name House Ethics Committee has such a nice oxymoronic ring to it.

Drained Brain on July 1, 2014 at 4:08 PM

Moronic even…..

VegasRick on July 1, 2014 at 4:41 PM

Just to be clear, lobbyist-funded travel will still have to be disclosed, but now that required disclosure is entirely internal. Prior to this decision, each member had to include this information in annual reports that were publicly available, and so did members of their staffs.

Is the “internal” information discoverable with a FOIA request? I would gladly contribute to a website or organization that would obtain and publish that data. Not because I necessarily expect there to be “smoking guns”, but because I don’t believe the Washington parasites should EVER be trusted without some form of oversight.

bofh on July 1, 2014 at 4:41 PM

If it takes voting them out too, so be it. Keep the revolving door moving until we get what’s right for the country, no quarter for the wicked fascist progressive pigs.

Diluculo on July 1, 2014 at 4:10 PM

Its been observed that if you want more government, use the ballot box. If you want less government use the ammo box.

Its been that way since the dawn of time.

Reuben Hick on July 1, 2014 at 4:43 PM

Did Trey Gowdy vote for this?

Jackson on July 1, 2014 at 4:38 PM

If one could find a roll-call vote record (as if the bipartisan Party-In-Government would have conducted that or allowed it to be publicly recorded), I almost would wager he was the lone dissenter of the 10 equally-divided* committee members.

Countering that, the only mention of the committee votes in 2013, in their annual report, was that every vote was unanimous.

Steve Eggleston on July 1, 2014 at 4:44 PM

GOP Controlled House Ethics Committee weakens lobbyist-funded travel disclosure

airupthere on July 1, 2014 at 4:54 PM

Next time Republicans laugh at “the most transparent president in history”- take a good look in the mirror.

Marcus Traianus on July 1, 2014 at 4:55 PM

So hey, a republican held house can get legislation accomplished after all!

GOP isn’t the do-nothing party after all!

everdiso on July 1, 2014 at 4:40 PM

damn lester, you’re stupid. It wasn’t legislation. It was a committee..with equal number of democrats as republicans.

HumpBot Salvation on July 1, 2014 at 5:03 PM

I thought brave Tea Party heroes like Trey Gowdy, Michelle Bachmann, Louise Goehmert would have prevented this..

What happened Tea Party???

Ned Pepper on July 1, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Which of those 3 are on the House Ethics Committee? All of them?

http://ethics.house.gov/about/committee-members

Committee Members
Republicans:
K. Michael Conaway, Texas – Chairman
Charles W. Dent, Pennsylvania
Patrick Meehan, Pennsylvania
Trey Gowdy, South Carolina
Susan W. Brooks, Indiana

Democrats
Linda T. Sánchez, California – Ranking Member
Pedro R. Pierluisi, Puerto Rico
Michael E. Capuano, Massachusetts
Yvette D. Clarke, New York
Ted Deutch, Florida

Ah, so you expect ONE vote to control a committee with 10 people on it?

Do you understand how “voting” works? Or do you think the one person oin the committee you listed can overrule the rest of them and declare hiumself the arbitrator of what will happen?

Sorry, his mane isn’t “Obama”.

Am I disappointed as heck with the R’s and D’s on that list? Yep.

But why list 2 people not even ON the committee as blameworthy here?

gekkobear on July 1, 2014 at 5:07 PM

They are acting in THEIR behalf not ours. Take them out and fire them for such self actions. get rid of every single member that supports such actions better yet take them out and fire at every third member so the rest get the idea. With all that is going on they still try such things is unbelievable.

Is there no outrage that will ignite this country? What have we become?

jpcpt03 on July 1, 2014 at 5:25 PM

Its been observed that if you want more government, use the ballot box. If you want less government use the ammo box.

Its been that way since the dawn of time.

Reuben Hick on July 1, 2014 at 4:43 PM

Reaching for the ammo box to change the US government buys you nothing but a casket.

Tlaloc on July 1, 2014 at 5:29 PM

Come on, would YOU want all of your private graft exposed to the Hoi Polloi?

Tard on July 1, 2014 at 5:34 PM

So hey, a republican held house can get legislation accomplished after all!

GOP isn’t the do-nothing party after all!

everdiso on July 1, 2014 at 4:40 PM

Happy Canada Day, aaay?

slickwillie2001 on July 1, 2014 at 5:36 PM

…what bullshit!

JugEarsButtHurt on July 1, 2014 at 6:03 PM

The point has been made that the Republicans can truly screw up this election and doing stuff like this helps a lot. The Mississippi debacle is bad enough, since there will be less tea party voters voting Republican because of that. It probably won’t matter much in Mississippi, but there will be some close elections that will be decided by a small amount of votes where Republicans will need every vote they can get, Mississippi is going to make those races even tighter.

The House leadership needs to be changed, regardless of what happens in November. This group is tone-deaf, inept, and ignorant and doesn’t deserve to be re-elected let alone hold a leadership position. After the tea party gave them over-whelming numbers, in 2010, what did the House do with it? They signed Continuing Resolutions and voted 40 times to repeal Obamacare. They could have passed budgets, defunding parts of Obamacare and told the Senate they wouldn’t sign a CR.

The Democrats don’t deserve to receive any votes, after what they’ve done to the country, but the Republicans aren’t going to be much better. About the only thing they’ll be good for is holding Obama at bay and forcing him to nominate more moderate judges.

bflat879 on July 1, 2014 at 9:34 PM

House Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, did not return a call for comment; …

Conaway is my congressman. I voted against him in the primary, to no avail.

I will be sending him a nastygram over this. Who knows, maybe he will read it.

iurockhead on July 1, 2014 at 11:27 PM

So if i work at the acme widget company and an executive at spacely sprockets invites me on a free trip to miami beach to tell me he needs more widgets, am i obligated to tell the IRS?

jaywemm on July 2, 2014 at 1:33 AM

There are five Republicans and five Democrats on the House Ethics Committee.

So one must assume that a bipartisan majority approved this change.

J Baustian on July 2, 2014 at 1:35 PM

So if i work at the acme widget company and an executive at spacely sprockets invites me on a free trip to miami beach to tell me he needs more widgets, am i obligated to tell the IRS?

jaywemm on July 2, 2014 at 1:33 AM

Not if your hard drive crashes.

Herb on July 2, 2014 at 1:55 PM

Already reversed their position. To much pressure from the public.

jpcpt03 on July 3, 2014 at 7:32 PM