Special interest junkets: Massachusetts lawmakers exposed

A reader sent this link to a Boston Herald piece that talked about the free rides some Massachuetts lawmakers have rec’d courtesy of special interest groups:

Congress’ crackdown on lobbyist gifts and junkets hasn’t clipped the wings of several members of the Bay State delegation and their staffs, who flew free of charge this year on several purported business trips paid for by special-interest groups, a Herald review found.

These groups have shelled out nearly $17,000 this year to shuttle Bay State lawmakers, their wives and aides to meetings in vacation hot spots such as Fort Lauderdale, San Diego and a beachfront resort in Mexico, according to congressional travel documents.

News of the lawmakers’ junkets comes as Congress scrutinizes special interest and lobbyist gifts in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal. Abramoff, a Brandeis graduate, has pleaded guilty to fraud and bribery after showering Washington lawmakers with gifts including trips and meals. All of the trips taken by the Bay State lawmakers were reported in gift and travel filings required under Congress’ ethics rules.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Malden) landed the sweetest deal, escaping the January cold with his wife, Dr. Susan Blumenthal, to a resort in Punta Mita, Mexico. The nonprofit Aspen Institute footed the $7,800 bill for the couple’s all-inclusive week in the tropical vacation spot just south of Puerto Vallarta.

Several other members of Congress and their spouses made the trip with Markey and his wife, including Rep. Norman Dicks (D-Wash.), and California Democratic representatives George Miller, Sam Farr and Susan Davis.

A Markey spokeswoman noted that “no lobbyist, congressional staff or outside observers are permitted” at the Aspen Institute conference in Mexico. The institute is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

Rep. William Delahunt (D-Quincy) also escaped the winter doldrums, taking a weeklong, all-expenses-paid trip to San Diego in February courtesy of the German Marshall Fund, a nonprofit think tank. The group plunked down $1,575 for the congressman’s hotel, $1,181 for his flight and $384 for meals, congressional records show.

Delahunt spokesman Steven Broderick said the San Diego trip involved meetings with German lawmakers and were part of Delahunt’s duties as chair of Congress’ German study group.

“The trip to San Diego was in keeping with that responsibility” Broderick said.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Newton) has taken three special-interest-funded junkets this year, including a four-day trip in February to Los Angeles paid for by the Retirement Housing Foundation and a two-day jaunt to Philadelphia funded by the National Constitutional Center. Frank also traveled to Fort Lauderdale for two days last month, courtesy of the Family Pride Coalition. The group is a nonprofit group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender parents and families.

Frank spokesman Steve Adamske said the congressman does not accept corporate-sponsored private jets or travel, nor does he accept payment for speaking engagements. He said the special-interest-funded trips were appropriate because they “reduce the impact on the taxpayer.”

Springfield Democrat Richard Neal, meanwhile, took a two-day trip to Miami in January for a summit on estate planning. The $630 flight, hotel and meal tab was paid by megabank Wachovia Corp., records show.

Neal spokesman William Tranghese defended the Miami trip, saying Neal sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax-related issues.

Excuses excuses …

Now, what was that you were saying again about the “Republican culture of corruption”, Rep. Pelosi?

Related Toldjah So posts:

Comments are closed.