February 26, 2007, - 11:58 am
By Debbie Schlussel
Remember Democrats’–and Republicans’–in Congress claiming they’d put an end to the Jack Abramoff days of free trips golfing in Scotland and free expensive dinnes at fancy restaurants.
Well, predictably, Nancy Pelosi’s Congress is no different from Dennis Hastert’s. And it’s the same old free trips and dinners, etc.
Today’s USA Today has two stories (here and here) about how Congressmmen/women are going on junkets all over the world. The change in House rules requires only that the trip be paid for by an organization that doesn’t hire lobbyists. But that’s not change from the Abramoff days, when he used non-profit, non-lobbyist groups like the National Center for Public Policy Research to pay for the tab.
One weekend in January, a dozen House members gathered at a luxury Miami hotel to learn more about health care issues.
The lawmakers assembled at the Mandarin Oriental, which boasts Biscayne Bay views and rooms starting at $469 a night. The trip, sponsored by the non-profit Alliance for Health Reform, is among the travel allowed under ethics rules that go into effect Thursday.
In passing the rules, intended to cut ties between lawmakers and lobbyists, top Democrats led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also agreed to exemptions that allow House members to continue taking trips to destinations such as Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The Miami trip – along with a gathering in San Juan last week sponsored by the Aspen Institute, a non-profit think tank – is allowed under an exemption that permits organizations that don’t employ lobbyists to pick up the tab. Another exemption allows trips paid for by lobbyists and their employers as along as the trips last no more than two nights.
Since the House rules leave campaign-finance laws untouched, lobbyists and members of Congress also can spend days together on golfing and ski trips paid for by a third party, generally a political fundraising committee established by a lawmaker. Lobbyists can then write checks in support of lawmakers’ fundraising committees.
I wrote about this giant third-party loophole, last week. As far as free dinners, free “The Who” concerts, etc., The New York Times exposed the fact that Congressmen like Hezbollah supporter Darrell Issa a/k/a “Jihad Darrell” have gotten around that, too. The rules only require that a check be written to cover the cost (plus a whole lot extra) to their PACs and campaign committees.
The more things change, the more corruption stays the same.
All of you who voted for a Democratic Congress, hoping to change all of that, you’ve been had.
Tags: Alliance for Health Reform, Aspen Institute, Biscayne Bay, campaign-finance laws, Congress, Darrell Issa, Debbie Schlussel Remember, Dennis Hastert, Hizballah, House Speaker, lawmaker, Miami, Miami hotel, Nancy Pelosi, National Center for Public Policy Research, Puerto Rico, San Juan, Scotland, The New York Times, USA Today, USD