Loopholes Give Free Overseas Travel to Lobbyists and Members of Congress
Posted at 11:38 a.m. on Jan. 10
Members of Congress and lobbyists continue to take advantage of loopholes in the gift and travel rules put in place after the Jack Abramoff scandal.
The “reality is that lobbyists who can’t legally buy a lawmaker a sandwich can still escort members on trips all around the world,” states a new National Journal investigative report.
The report highlights free travel for members paid for by the governments of foreign countries under the provisions of the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act (MECEA), for cultural exchange trips. The report also highlights free travel paid by non-profits that accept corporate contributions.
Members of Congress who accept gifts of free travel are required to report their travel on individual post-travel reports and on on their annual personal financial disclosure report. MECEA trips are required to be reported only on their annual personal financial disclosure report. The specific cost of a MECEA trip is not required to be reported.
The investigation also mentioned a free MECEA May 15-19, 2011 trip sponsored by the Republic of China (Taiwan) given to Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., who did not report the trip on his original CY2011 personal financial report, but filed an amendment on December 30, 2013.
The gifts of free travel are posted on Political MoneyLine’s personal financial profile for each member of Congress. Political MoneyLine’s Private Travel database also lists reported gifts of travel, and the sponsoring organizations or foreign governments.