This morning’s Times highlights how Congressional travel rules work.
Despite changes intended to curb Congressional junkets, some lawmakers and even their families continue to take trips hosted by private groups and companies that revel in their access to Washington power brokers.
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The rules are filled with odd contradictions. Lobbyists themselves are not allowed to pay for trips, but their corporate clients can. And lobbyists are permitted to give huge sums to nonprofit groups that can sponsor travel. They can also travel to destinations and meet the lawmakers once they get there, though they cannot go on the same plane.
Seizing on the loopholes, lobbyists and the companies that employ them are still underwriting trips by dozens of members of Congress, particularly those in the House, the Times review shows. The companies finance much of this travel indirectly, getting around the spirit of the rules by giving money to nonprofits, some of which seem to exist largely to sponsor trips. In fact, the rules may have had the unexpected effect of obscuring who is actually paying for a lawmaker’s junket.