Changes To Congressional Travel Disclosures

Changes To Congressional Travel Disclosures

Transparency advocates are fighting a quiet change to how members of Congress report free travel, Pam Brown reports.
Members of Congress no longer have to disclose who funds their travel.

That's the new guidance from the House Ethics Committee in a rule change that was approved behind closed doors.

Members of Congress have had the travel bug for years, visiting places like the old city in Israel to get a sense of the ages old problems there.

In fact,  Israel, France, Turkey, Ireland rank among the popular destinations for lawmakers. Who are traveling there for free because private sponsors pick up the tab totaling millions of dollars each year.

It used to be each member of Congress must reveal who paid their tab on their personal financial disclosure forms; one of the most high profile lawmakers must file.

Now that requirement has changed. Buried -- on page 35 -- in the House Ethics Committee's guidelines provided to Congress members states the change, meaning the gift of travel "regardless of its dollar value" and "paid for by a private source" does not need to be reported.

The unpublicized change went unnoticed until a reporter with the National Journal spotted it.

The Chairman of the House Transparency caucus says that's part of the problem.

Now Congress members must disclose all their travel records to the clerks office instead.

The House Ethics Committee says the information is still easily accessible and the change streamlines the process.

The trips in question are financed by private, non-profit groups, usually billed as fact-finding missions.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is speaking out about the change in a statement, asking the house ethics committee to reverse course: "while the committee's aim was to simplify the disclosure process, congress must always move in the direction of more disclosure, not less," she says.

In a statement, the Chief Counsel for the Ethics Committee tells CNN the panel "continues to enforce the requirement that all house members and staff who wish to accept privately sponsored travel must continue to receive prior approval from the ethics committee and to file detailed paperwork about any such trip within 15 days. neither of those requirements has been changed or diluted in any way."
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