Even I'm surprised by this.
The Center for Public Integrity, along with American Public Media and Northwestern University's Medill News Service, has just released the results of their massive study
on Congressional travel since the beginning of 2000. The grand total is $50 million spent by non-profits and private interests flying around Members and staffers on 23,000 trips.
That's an impressive number. But more impressive to me is their finding that at least 90 of those trips, valued at about $145,000, "were sponsored or co-sponsored by firms registered to lobby the federal government." That's just flat out against the rules - lobbyists aren't allowed to cover travel. But in every case the trip was approved. People just didn't care what the rules are.
Many lobbyists at least take the trouble to have a sham non-profit sponsor the travel - as was the case with Jack Abramoff
. But apparently it's been such a lobbyist-friendly environment that some lobbyists don't even bother.
Take, for example, the case of Tom DeLay's brother Randy DeLay, who is - no surprise here - a lobbyist. According to a report by NPR's Marketplace this morning, he whisked two staffers to a resort while they were both working on a transportation approrpiations bill. They spent the weekend with his client, who wanted money to a build a toll road in West Virginia. DeLay picked up the tab. No repercussions.
No doubt we'll be hearing more details like that over the coming days.
The study comes complete with a breakdown of Congress's most frequent flyers. Tom DeLay's office, of course, came in first, having accepted almost $500,000 in trips over 5 years for him and his staff. But he just narrowly edged out Rep. Don Young's (R-AK) by just $8,000. Other top travelers include Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO).
Check it out.