House Ethics Panel Reverses Change On Free Trip Disclosure

Thursday, 03 Jul 2014 04:46 PM

By Jennifer G. Hickey

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In the face of criticism from government accountability groups, the House Ethics Committee has reversed its decision earlier this week to remove a requirement compelling lawmakers to disclose free trips on financial disclosure forms.

According to an audio tape obtained by the National Journal, which first reported the rule change, House Ethics Committee Chairman Mike Conaway announced the reversal during a radio appearance on Thursday.

"We will reverse that decision," he said on a local radio talk show in his Texas district. "[It was] a wrong decision and we're going to fix it."

If the initial rule change had remained, lawmakers would still be obligated to disclose free trips, but only on the House clerk's website, which is not visited as frequently by government watchdogs and reporters.

The information contained on the clerk's website also is more detailed, and contains several pages of questions, which makes searching them more laborious.

Government watchdog groups and transparency advocates were quick to denounce the change, The Washington Post reports.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonpartisan government watchdog, decried the actions of the Ethics Committee when the change was first reported.

"Removing the travel disclosure requirement from the annual disclosure form is a blatant attempt to avoid accountability. The only Americans who would possibly be in favor of this change are members of Congress. It seems some lawmakers are eager to enjoy privately funded lavish trips without facing pesky questions from watchdog groups and constituents. The idea that this is a change for efficiency's sake is ludicrous," CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a statement.

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