Congressional Staffers Travel On Foreign Government’s Tab

Congressional Staffers Travel On Foreign Government’s TabClose to twelve congressional staffers flew business class when they traveled to China in the summer of 2012 and slept at luxury hotels, while they toured the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. As well, they received a “briefing on ancient artifacts and dynasties” at the Shanghai Museum.

Their all-expense-paid trip was provided courtesy of the Chinese government. They hosted one day of meetings with officials in Beijing which was followed by an itinerary of 8-days full of outings to regions frequented often by tourists, as well as a visit to a missile frigate.

Foreign governments are also sponsoring these types of excursions for U.S. lawmakers and their staff more and more, although changes of ethics rules were adopted by Congress in 2008 banning these types of free tips. This type of oversees travel is usually arranged by foreign government lobbyists, although lobbyists have been barred from creating these types of trips because of a concern that they will be used to get favors.

Overseas travel is discussed in an exemption that congress granted for itself to cover trips deemed as cultural exchanges.

From 2005 – 2011 a Washington Post examination found that Hill staffers had taken 803 reported trips. Lawmakers are participating at higher rates, disclosing 21 trips in 2011 – over twice as many as was reported in years prior.

The amount of congressional trips may be a lot higher, because only senior congressional staff and lawmakers have to divulge travel. According to a former senior aide, junior congressional staffers went on trips because they did not have the chance to take official trips funded be the United States government.

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