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Report: Members of Congress Taking More Free Trips

3:27 PM, Sep 24, 2013   |    comments
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Catalina Camia, USA TODAY

Looks like members of Congress are back to traveling on someone else's dime.

There were about 130 privately funded trips for members of Congress in August worth about $1.7 million, according to data compiled by Political MoneyLine. That's the largest monthly total in two years, the money in politics website reports.

Ireland, Israel and Ethiopia were among the popular destinations last month. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.,reported accepting a $22,230 trip to Dublin from the Franklin Center for Global Policy Exchange and the Ripon Society, according to his disclosure report. Political MoneyLine notes Scalise's spouse also went along and they stayed for additional days at their personal expense. In all,10 lawmakers and their spouses were on the Ireland trip.

Another trip cited in the article: Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., and his wife accepted a $20,021 trip to Israel, sponsored by the American Israel Foundation. Barber told the Arizona Jewish Post that the trip was "a life-changing experience" that helped him understand the country's economy and national security. Sixty-two other lawmakers and their spouses visited Israel, the report says.

In 2007, Congress changed its rules to cut down on lobbyist-funded junkets, limiting these trips to two nights at the expense of corporations and unions that employ lobbyists. But there are few rules when it comes to trips paid for by non-profits.

So far in 2013, members of Congress have taken about $3.3 million worth of trips - about a 46% jump from the 2012 total, according to the Political MoneyLine records. The total number of trips so far this year - 442 - is a little less than one third of the 1,338 trips taken by Congress in 2005, which was the most since 2000.

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