Miami Beach party with lobbyists highlights a congressional travel loophole
A trip to South Florida by a dozen senators last weekend highlights a loophole in congressional travel regulations.
The House and Senate both restricted most privately funded travel for trips that have any connection with lobbyists in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal. But that hasn't stopped lawmakers from taking trips with lobbyists.
According to a report in Politico, 12 Democratic senators took a trip to Miami Beach last weekend for a fundraiser attended by top lobbyists. The guest list for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's "winter retreat" included 108 senior Washington lobbyists. Many of the lobbyists represented fields that are normally in the crosshairs of Democratic rhetoric, including banking, tobacco, oil and pharmaceuticals.
Such campaign events give lawmakers a loophole to the prohibitions against traveling with lobbyists. House and Senate ethics rules prohibit members of Congress from accepting privately financed travel, in most cases, if any lobbyists will be present during the trip. However, there is no such prohibition against campaign travel or campaign fundraisers.
Politico pointed out that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the DSCC chairman, had put out a press release just a few days before the event saying that Republicans "are standing with Wall Street fat cats, bankers and insurance companies" while Democrats " putting the people's interests ahead of the special interests."
The cost to attend what were billed as "informal conversations" wasn't given, but similar events typically require attendees to donate the maximum amount - $30,000 - to the committee, Politico said.