With all of the talk of Jack Abramoff and Congressional ethics lately, I’m amused at how some members of Congress have now found the religion of restraint. Consider:
House Republicans, seeking to recover their standing with voters in the wake of a lobbying scandal, are considering a total ban on privately funded congressional trips, the lawmaker leading the reform effort said Wednesday.
Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., said GOP leaders were “seriously considering” the need to eliminate all privately financed travel. “That would be a very strong statement. We want to be bold,” said Dreier, chairman of the House Rules Committee.
Current congressional rules prohibit lobbyists from paying for travel for members of Congress and their staff.
But qualified private sponsors can pay for food, transportation and lodging when members of Congress travel to meetings, speaking engagements or fact-finding events in connection with official duties.
“There’s a difference between a fact-finding trip that you do with the Aspen Institute and these trips funded by lobbyists and corporations where you do an hour of work and then play golf at St. Andrews all day,” said Jennifer Crider, a spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
I’m amazed that such principled individuals needed a scandal to come up with such an obvious proposal, but I’m more stunned that this is somehow “bold”. If a trip is connected to official duties, the people for whom the representatives are acting should pay for the trip. If the people don’t like what their representatives consider official duties, they’ll let their representatives know. It’s not particularly complicated.