Congressional junkets coming back strong

Posted by Sean Cockerham on February 3, 2014 

The Capitol dome

TISH WELLS — McClatchy

Members of Congress took more free trips last year than at any time since ethics rules were tightened in the wake of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

The web site legistorm, which collects Congressional records, found that members of Congress and their staffers took nearly 1,900 privately funded trips at a cost of $6 million. That's the most since rules meant to stop lobbyist-funded trips were passed in 2007.

More than $2 million was for trips to Israel, most of them paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation, which is tied to the influential pro-Israel lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee. 

Spending on such free trips has doubled since right after the post-Abramoff ethics reforms, the National Journal reports, and last year's jaunts included Ireland, Morocco, France, South Africa, Israel and Turkey.

Among last year's trips, according to the National Journal, was also a December visit to Puerto Rico by Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez and his wife. They stayed at a cliffside Waldorf Astoria resort while the Council of State Governments Eastern Regional Conference picked up the tab. 

The annual meeting's theme was "Succeeding in a Time of Austerity," according to the National Journal.

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