Target: House Committee on Ethics Chairman K. Michael Conaway
Goal: Overturn new rule that allows undisclosed gifts of all-expenses-paid trips to members of Congress
It’s more difficult than ever to find out who’s bankrolling members of Congress after a change in disclosure rules instigated by the House Committee on Ethics. Previously, any congressperson who enjoyed an all-expenses-paid trip would need to disclose that trip on an annual form, allowing the public to see who had paid for it. After the change these trips can now be funded anonymously and without disclosure. It is unclear which member of the Committee on Ethics first called for the change of rules, and there was no public announcement by the Committee regarding the change.
All-expenses-paid trips are usually financed by interest groups hoping to get a member of Congress on their side of an issue. Such trips might take a congressperson on a tour of factories, or to the farm-filled heartland, or perhaps overseas. These trips are perfectly legal, but ever since the 1970s they have had to be included on financial-disclosure forms, according to the National Journal. The potential for corruption is ever-present, and by keeping the public informed as to who has paid for what it becomes easier to determine which organizations a congressperson might feel beholden to.
This move by the Committee on Ethics makes congressional finances less transparent, and in these times of reckless spending less transparency is never a good thing. Though it’s not known who instigated the change, the Chairman of the Committee on Ethics nevertheless has the power and influence to undo it.
Call on Chairman K. Michael Conaway to restore transparency to lobbyists’ gifts of all-expenses-paid trips to elected officials.
Dear Chairman Conaway,
The recent decision by the House Committee on Ethics to no longer require reporting of all-expenses-paid trips on annual financial-disclosure forms is a blow to transparency, and to the right of all U.S. citizens to know who their elected officials receive gifts from. It is now much more difficult to discover which organizations might expect favors from which members of Congress. In today’s world of often questionable political spending, more transparency rather than less is the key to a strong democracy.
All-expenses-paid trips are perfectly legal and can serve constructive purposes, but the potential for corruption is especially high when no one is watching. As Chairman of the House Committee on Ethics you have the power to reverse this change and restore transparency and oversight. I urge you to mandate the disclosure of all-expenses-paid trips to members of Congress on an annual form.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Bill Koplitz via Wikimedia Commons