Privately financed travel has often been a source of scandal. Following are a few trips that have attracted the attention of law enforcement officials.
Ex-Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio):
In August 2002, then-Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) took a privately funded trip to Scotland and England. According to this disclosure form he filed, Ney gave a speech to Scottish parliamentarians, attended a show put on by the Scottish military, and visited the British parliament. He indicated that the expenses incurred - $3200 - were paid for by the National Center for Public Policy and Research.
Rep. Ney later admitted that he purposefully lied in this disclosure. He did not engage in any of the activities described in the form, substantially under-reported the costs incurred on the trip (which included private jets, golfing on Scotland's world-famous course, and luxury accommodations), and knowingly concealed the true sponsor of the trip, lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
In February 2003, Ney took a privately sponsored trip to England. This is the disclosure form he filed afterwards which he later admitted to falsifying. It does accurately disclose the name of the convicted felon who was serving as the Executive Director of FN Aviation, the trip's sponsor. However, the disclosure does not reflect the thousands of dollars Ney accepted from the owner of FN aviation in the form of gambling chips. Ney also admitted to taking actions to assist FN Aviation after this trip, and to returning to England several months later for another gambling excursion with the FN Aviation owner that netted Rep. Ney an additional $47,000. This latter trip was not reported.
Staffer Chris Otillo accompanied Ney on the trip to London.
Former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas)
Tom DeLay's 2000 trip to Great Britain has been the subject of much scrutiny due to its connection to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The trip's sponsor, the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), had Abramoff as a board member at the time, and accepted $50,000 from two groups that were his clients. Shortly thereafter, NCPPR underwrote DeLay's $70,000 trip to Britain, which included golf on Scotland's renowned St. Andrews course. DeLay was accompanied on the trip by his wife, several staffers, a former staffer-turned-lobbyist named Ed Buckham, and Mr. Abramoff himself. It has been reported that some trip expenses were covered initially by Abramoff and Buckham, who were later reimbursed by the NCPPR. This practice is explicitly prohibited by House rules.
Some have questioned Rep. DeLay's motivation in a vote he cast months later against legislation opposed by the two Abramoff clients who donated to NCPPR just prior to DeLay's trip. DeLay has stated the trip was "legal and informative."
Tom DeLay took this trip to Korea in 2001. The trip's sponsor, the Korea-US Exchange Council, was established in part by lobbyist Ed Buckham, a former senior DeLay staffer. The group registered as a foreign agent on August 22, 2001, thereby making it ineligible to sponsor Congressional travel. Delay and his wife departed for Korea just three days later. Many other members of Congress and staff, Republicans and Democrats alike, have accepted travel from the Council, some years after it was registered as foreign agent. (for example, Democrat Jim McDemott)
Indicted Rep. William Jefferson (D-Louisiana)
This trip Rep. William Jefferson took to Nigeria was sponsored in part by iGate, a Kentucky technology company. The CEO of iGate pled guilty last year to bribing Jefferson in exchange for the congressman's assistance in promoting iGate's business in Nigeria and elsewhere. In this disclosure he filed with the House clerk, Jefferson claimed the purpose of the trip was to "explore general investment opportunities."
This trip that Rep. Jefferson took to Ghana was sponsored by the Win-Win Strategies Foundation, an education charity based in Virginia. According to published reports, the founder of Win-Win, Lori Mody, had notified federal authorities her concerns with Rep. Jefferson's behavior several months before underwriting this trip.
The trip's purpose is listed as "education and business development," but it's possible that the sponsor was more interested in keeping up appearances as the investigation continued. One week after Jefferson returned from this trip, Mody reportedly wore a wire to a meeting with Jefferson and the vice president of Nigeria in Maryland. Less than two weeks after that, Mody gave $100,000 in cash to Jefferson, which he allegedly advised would be given to the Nigerian vice president. Several days later, federal investigators found $90,000 in the freezer of Jefferson's Capitol Hill apartment.
While the disclosure states no family members accompanied him on this trip, news reports suggest that a family member may in fact have traveled to Ghana with him.