(Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers are once again taking advantage of their summer recess to race around the globe on privately financed tours to places like China, the Middle East and Scotland – trips watchdog groups cite as evidence that congressional ethics reforms are unraveling.
Critics of such trips say it is unseemly for members of the House and Senate to take trips bankrolled by people and organizations with specific legislative desires.
“It’s money well spent by lobbying groups, but for the American public, there is no benefit,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the consumer group Public Citizen.
Congress clamped down on such travel in 2007 after disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s influence-peddling scandal tainted many Republicans with close ties to him, contributing to their 2006 election losses in the House of Representatives.
Abramoff – convicted and imprisoned on fraud and conspiracy charges – paid for lawmakers he was trying to sway on legislative matters, among these casino gambling, to fly away for lavish junkets, including golf outings in Scotland.