Ethics rule reduces congressional flying

June 30, 2008 at 12:48 PM

WASHINGTON, June 30 (UPI) -- U.S. congressional leaders are cutting back on travel junkets thanks to a new ethics rule, say watchdog organizations.

New rules require lawmakers to detail in advance where they will go and who will pay airfare, rooms and food costs, with whom they will meet, whether congressional leaders will receive gifts, and how much free time they will have. Since it went into effect on Sept. 1, the impact has been dramatic, the Denver Post reported Monday.

A peak of 1,340 trips in 2005 cost $3.6 million. But that figure dropped to 441 trips costing $2.1 million last year, according to Congressional Quarterly's MoneyLine. While those numbers include only members of Congress and not their aides, watchdogs say they are pleased with the results -- along with another requirement that organizations employing lobbyists cannot pay for congressional trips unless they are one day events.

"It's way harder to sin than it used to be," said Sarah Dufendach, vice president of legislative affairs for Common Cause, a watchdog group.

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