Congress, staff break record for privately funded trips

Feb. 4, 2014 at 3:28 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Members of the U.S. Congress and staff members broke the record for taking the most privately funded trips since 2007 reforms, reported.

Israel topped the list of foreign destinations with more than $2 million in private trips financed, most funded by the American Israel Education Foundation. The foundation is a division of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the report said.

The top most expensive destinations were Turkey, India, Ethiopia and Azerbaijan.

Lawmakers and staff members made nearly 1,900 trips costing $6 million in 2013, breaking the record for the most privately sponsored trips since since restrictions were put in place in 2007. The previous post-reform high was in 2011 when privately financed travel cost $5.8 million for 1,600 trips, the report said.

LegiStorm, a Capitol Hill non-profit, said the August recess travel to Ethiopia by 23 members of Congress and staff and lasted six days, costing more than $300,000.

The Congressional Institute, which says it is non-partisan but is run by top Republican lobbyists and former staff, was the biggest sponsor of trips in 2013, LegiStorm reported, paying for 474 Republican members of Congress and staff.

Democrats topped the individual lists.

Trips by Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif. cost private funders the most in 2013, the report said. His trips to Ethiopia, Turkey and Sudan totaled about $70,000.

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., took the most trips of any lawmaker last year with 11, LegiStorm reported, mostly to appear on ABC News shows or at Progressive Institute events.

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