House alters reporting of lawmakers' free trips

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 1, 2014 at 4:02 pm •  Published: July 1, 2014
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With polls showing the public has little confidence in Congress, "You would think the House Ethics Committee would focus on building public confidence in the institution, rather than looking for ways to make their dirty laundry harder to find," said Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center, a non-profit that monitors congressional ethics and campaign finance.

Word of the move also prompted a disagreement between the House's top two leaders. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the change should be canceled and said she would ask House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, for a vote on reversing it if the Ethics panel does not do so.

"While the committee's aim was to simplify the disclosure process, Congress must always move in the direction of more disclosure, not less," Pelosi said.

But Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said: "Rep. Pelosi's staff needs to talk to her representative on the Ethics Committee, who signed off on this bipartisan change to reduce duplicative paperwork."

House members have included the travel information in their personal financial disclosure forms since the late 1970s.

Even with the change, lawmakers are required to continue reporting some free trips worth at least $350 on their financial disclosure forms. These include travel to charity fundraisers and for events unrelated to congressional business.

Members of Congress and their aides reported taking 1,893 privately paid trips last year, the most since stricter reporting requirements took effect in 2007 after a scandal involving then-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to LegiStorm, a private organization that compiles data about Congress. The group said those trips cost $6,015,824.