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Businesses paid for most House trips, study says


WASHINGTON -- Businesses paid for two-thirds of nearly 4,000 privately financed trips that members of the House accepted in 1989 and 1990, according to a study released yesterday by a consumer advocacy group.

Corporations and business associations paid for 66 percent of the trips, religious and ideological groups for 19 percent, educational institutions for 7 percent and labor unions for 2 percent, with the remaining 6 percent paid for by individuals or groups whose interests could not be identified by the researchers, according to Congress Watch.

"If trips are necessary, the federal government, not lobbyists, should pay for them. A vast majority of these trips were not necessary," Michael McCauley said in an interview. He and Andrew Cohen compiled the report for Congress Watch, the lobbying arm of Public Citizen, an advocacy group founded by consumer activist Ralph Nader in 1971.

Pointing out seasonal trips to desert and beach resorts by dozens of House members, Mr. McCauley said: "There is no question that many of these trips are junkets that are designed to give lobbyists the chance to fraternize with lawmakers, frequently at pricey resorts."

Members of Congress should not accept gift trips, Mr. McCauley said.

He added that if Congress would not vote to ban gift trips, it should at least require that within a month of each trip the lawmaker disclose its actual value, what he did, the sponsor and location, and any charities given contributions in his name.

Members now must report a gift trip, though not its cost, 4 1/2 months after the year in which it takes place.

The Congress Watch study conservatively understated the number of privately sponsored trips taken by House members in 1989-1990 at 3,984, including 357 abroad. It did not count government-paid trips, privately financed trips to charitable or political party events, unpaid media appearances or trips by members who missed the May 15 reporting deadline or who left Congress without filing reports for their last year.

The most trips were accepted by Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., 98; William H. Gray III, D-Pa., 74; Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., 53; Charles W. Stenholm, D-Texas, 51; Curt Weldon, R-Pa., 41; Bill Richardson, D-N.M., 40; Norman Y. Mineta, D-Calif., 39; Jim Bunning, R-Ky., 36; and, in a tie for ninth, John Lewis, D-Ga., and Stephen J. Solarz, D-N.Y., 33 each.

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