POWER TRIPS: CONGRESSIONAL STAFFERS SHARE THE ROAD

Contact: Brad Robideau
American Public Media
651-290-1113
brobideau@americanpublicmedia.org

POWER TRIPS: CONGRESSIONAL STAFFERS SHARE THE ROAD

REPORT FINDS CONGRESS AND STAFF TOOK NEARLY 23,000 PRIVATELY SPONSORED TRIPS WORTH ALMOST $50 MILLION

(Washington, DC) June 5, 2006-A new study of more than 25,000 public documents reveals that members of Congress are not alone in taking millions of dollars worth of privately funded trips. Lawmakers and their aides took nearly 23,000 privately sponsored trips to places from Kansas to Kazakhstan, at a cost of almost $50 million, according to a new study by American Public Media programs Marketplace and American RadioWorks, Northwestern University’s Medill News Service, and the Center for Public Integrity.

“Power Trips: Congressional Staffers Share the Road” is the result of a year-long investigation by American Public Media reporters, Northwestern University Medill School graduate students and Center for Public Integrity staffers who analyzed 25,000 travel documents from January 2000 to June 2005, filed not only by Congress members but also by their staffs. The study is a follow-up to the widely cited “Power Trips: Congress Hits the Road,” an investigation of privately sponsored travel by Congress members released two years ago by American Public Media and Northwestern University’s Medill School.

In looking at travel by both members of Congress and their staffers, the new “Power Trips” study finds that the lion’s share of the nearly $50 million spent on trips by private sponsors was enjoyed by congressional aides, the powerful Beltway gatekeepers to Congress members who special interests want to reach. Like their bosses, the study also found, staffers repeatedly ignored travel disclosure requirements and House and Senate rules.

Among the major findings, American Public Media, the Center for Public Integrity, and Medill News Service report that:

  • Many privately funded trips taken by Congress were sponsored by corporations, trade associations and nonprofit groups with business interests on Capitol Hill.
  • Often, the travel amounted to pricey jaunts to some of the world’s best-known vacation destinations. From January 2000 through June 2005, congressional travelers took at least 200 trips to Paris, 150 to Hawaii, and 140 to Italy.
  • Disclosure forms also show that at least 500 trips cost $10,000 or more, 16 cost $25,000 or more, and the cost of one exceeded $30,000. There were $500-a-night hotel rooms, $25,000 corporate jet rides and other extravagant perks.

Both Democrats and Republicans took advantage of privately funded travel. Of the two dozen congressional offices that accepted the most trips, 15 were occupied by Republicans. Of the 25 individual lawmakers who accepted more than $120,000 worth of travel during the study period, 17 were Democrats.

“Power Trips: Congressional Staffers Share the Road” includes a series of radio broadcasts and a Web site produced and distributed by American Public Media’s Marketplace daily business and economics news program and its national documentary unit, American RadioWorks, that begin today on Marketplace Morning Report and Marketplace; a series of more than 30 Medill News Service newspaper articles and website reports; and a package of investigative stories and interactive features at the Center for Public Integrity’s website.

For more information, please visit the following URLs:
www.americanradioworks.org/power
www.publicintegrity.org
www.medillnewsdc.com/power_trips/

###

Medill News Service is a print, broadcast and Web news service with offices in Washington, D.C. and Chicago that serve more than 50 newspapers, Web sites and TV and radio stations across the country. Staffed by students from Northwestern University’s Medill School, it provides breaking and in-depth news coverage on politics, civil rights, education, energy and other issues.

The Center for Public Integrity produces original, responsible investigative journalism to make institutional power more transparent and accountable. The Center is a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington, D.C.

American Public Mediaô is the nation’s second-biggest producer of public radio programs, reaching 14.2 million listeners nationwide each week. National programs include A Prairie Home CompanionÆ, Weekend AmericaÆ, Saint Paul SundayÆ, MarketplaceÆ, Marketplace MoneyÆ, The Splendid TableÆ, BeingÆ and special reports produced by its national documentary unit, American RadioWorksÆ. American Public Media is the national production and distribution division of Minnesota Public RadioÆ. Minnesota Public Radio, along with its sister company Southern California Public Radio, belongs to a larger family of companies within American Public Media Group, a national nonprofit organization whose purpose is to develop resources, services and systems to support public media for public service. A complete list of stations, programs and additional services can be obtained at www.americanpublicmedia.org.

###

Source: Data are copyright Arbitron, Inc. Arbitron data are estimates only.
Spring 2005/Fall 2005 average