Congress members now avoiding free trips

Aug. 3, 2006 at 5:55 PM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- Members of the U.S. Congress have become far more cautious this year about accepting trips financed by outside groups.

PoliticalMoneyLine reports that there were a total of 372 such trips during the first six months of 2006, down 49 percent from 733 junkets in the first half of 2005.

"The caution flag is out," Kent Cooper of PoliticalMoneyLine told USA Today. "You're dealing with members who are being far more cautious."

The scandals involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff have included travel for congressional representatives and aides to Scotland and the Mariana Islands. While the ostensible purpose was fact-finding, the trips included playing some of the world's most famous golf courses and spending time in beach resorts.

Rep. Gene Greene, D-Texas, a member of the House Ethics Committee, told USA Today he decided to reduce his travel when he discovered he was ranked second on PoliticalMoneyLine's trips list.

"I thought, 'That's not something I'm comfortable with, so I cut it back,' " he said.

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