On Monday, National Journal reported that the GOP-led House quietly stripped away a key disclosure mechanism for lobbyist-sponsored travel:
It's going to be a little more difficult to ferret out which members of Congress are lavished with all-expenses-paid trips around the world after the House has quietly stripped away the requirement that such privately sponsored travel be included on lawmakers' annual financial-disclosure forms.All is not lost: The travel gifts must still be reported to the House clerk, which is responsible for disclosing them. But removing them from annual disclosure forms—especially without announcing the change—serves no purpose other than to make it harder to keep tabs on lobbyist-sponsored travel.
The move, made behind closed doors and without a public announcement by the House Ethics Committee, reverses more than three decades of precedent.
On Tuesday, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi blasted the rules change, saying the decision "must be reversed" and telling National Journal that if the Ethics Committee doesn't move quickly, House Democrats "will call upon the Speaker to allow a vote on legislation to reverse this decision."
It's not even clear how many Democrats were informed of the rule change. For example, while House Majority Leader Eric Cantor didn't disclose a privately funded trip, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer did report the same trip. And overall, the lobbyist-sponsored travel business is booming:
Last year, members of Congress and their aides took more free trips than in any year since the influence-peddling scandal that sent lobbyist Jack Abramoff to prison.What a shock, eh? In the same year that the GOP-led House quietly makes it harder to track lobbyist-sponsored travel, they also have more lobbyist-sponsored travel since the Abramoff years? With an accomplishment like that, it's no wonder they want their base to focus on Benghazi and the IRS.