Dee Ann Divis: Rep. Tom Davis leads pack in privately funded trips

Business,Dee Ann Divis

Republican Congressman Tom Davis and his staff took more than $163,000 in trips paid for by private parties from 2001-05 — surpassing the amount of such travel by any other area representative. Retiring Maryland Sen. Paul Sarbanes, a Democrat, and Sen. George Allen, a Virginia Republican, were second and third with roughly $148,000 and $132,000 in privately funded trips, respectively.

The data encompasses all of the privately funded trips reported by Congress members and their staff from January 2001 through June 2005. The information, including links to the original documents, was provided to The Examiner by the Center for Public Integrity, which is compiling a database of all reports for that period. Controversy over such travel has been particularly sharp this year because of the connection between former House majority leader Tom DeLay, who has since resigned from Congress, and a trip to Scotland travel paid for by lobbyist Jack Abramoff who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and corruption-related charges.

The trips ranged widely from a $240 excursion to Philadelphia in 2001 by District of Columbia Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton for an unveiling ceremony to a $14,000 trip by Frank Wolf and his wife to Germany for a conference and meetings. In total, the area’s Congress members and staff made some $950,000 in trips sponsored by private groups from January 2001 through June 2005.

A review of the forms reporting thestrips indicated many were trade related. Wolf’s European trip was sponsored by the nonprofit International Management and Development Institute, which supports U.S./German businesses, and besides the U.S.-German Roundtable conference there were meetings at the embassy with U.S. officials said Wolf spokesman Dan Scandling.

"[The Institute] paid for the airfare," said Scandling, though he said he believed Wolf stayed with the U.S. ambassador part of the time.

Wolf was not the only member traveling with family. Sarbanes traveled with his wife to Florence, Italy; Helsinki, Finland; China; Honolulu and the Bahamas.

"As senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, his constituents expect him to travel," said Sarbanes press secretary Jesse Jacobs.

He said the trips have not impacted his boss’ policymaking or his relationship with his constituents.

Staff, including Brian Stout from Tom Davis’ office, also made a number of far-flung trade trips. In 2004 and 2005 Stout traveled to Brazil, Australia and South Korea; the Brazilian and Australian trips were paid from by General Atomics.

Those trips likely included staff from other offices, said Davis spokesman Dan White, and, based on the forms, entailed discussions with Australian officials and meetings on defense procurement. As for the total amount of travel by Davis and his staff that is attributable, said White, to Davis’ position as chair of the Committee on Government Reform.

"It would surprising, if Chairman Davis and his staff did not lead the way in travel among the region’s delegations in travel. We have a far far greater number of staffers than any other office."

Examiner Staff Writer Stephanie Tracy contributed to this report.
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