WASHINGTON - January 4 - As the House prepares to overhaul its gift and travel rules, the Center for Public Integrity today reported that privately funded travel for members of Congress and their aides has fallen sharply. The decline comes in the wake of a 2006 Center investigation showing that such travel had become a booming industry.
The Center recently analyzed travel disclosure forms for a one-year span ending June 30, 2006. Corporations, trade groups and nonprofits spent more than $5.4 million to send lawmakers and staffers on roughly 2,700 trips. During the previous one-year period, sponsors spent nearly twice as much — more than $10.3 million — on about 4,700 trips.
New rules proposed by the House Democratic leadership would ban lobbyists and the organizations that employ them from planning, financing or participating in travel, with few exceptions. The Center found that 45 of the top 100 travel sponsors during the most recent year studied would be prohibited from hosting such trips as a result of this change.
The Center's analysis of the latest travel data also found that:
• Republican lawmakers and their staffers traveled slightly more than Democrats.
• Staffers continue to be the predominant travelers, taking about 70 percent of the trips.
• At least five sponsors spent more than $100,000 each.
• Travelers brought companions, including siblings, boyfriends and nieces, on about 9 percent of the trips.
The Center reported last year that lawmakers and their aides took at least 23,000 trips, valued at nearly $50 million, over a 5½-year period ending in June 2005. While some trips constituted official business, as the rules require, others appeared to be poorly disguised vacations, underwritten by sponsors with interests on Capitol Hill.
Click here to view the latest stories on the Center's investigation into congressional travel and search the Power Trips database.