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House Travel Disclosure 'Simplification' Criticized by Pelosi

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By    |   Wednesday, 02 Jul 2014 08:19 AM

The House Ethics Committee was criticized this week over a change to travel disclosure rules for lawmakers and aides, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling for their reinstatement on Tuesday.

"The new rule presented by the Ethics Committee for disclosure of travel must be reversed," the 74-year-old Democrat from California said in a statement, The Washington Post reported.

The recent rule change abolished the requirement to list privately-sponsored travel on annual financial disclosure forms, as that type of travel is already required to be reported on another set of forms.

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Pelosi acknowledged that the "committee’s aim was to simplify the disclosure process" but argued that "Congress must always move in the direction of more disclosure, not less."

She continued, threatening, "If the Ethics Committee does not act, then we will call upon the Speaker to allow a vote on legislation to reverse this decision. In the meantime, Members are encouraged to disclose such trips to both the Clerk and in their annual disclosures."

The rule change was discovered by National Journal, which said the move was "made behind closed doors and without public announcement" in a Tuesday report on the committee's filings. Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, commented for the article, saying "This is such an obvious effort to avoid accountability. There's no legitimate reason. There's no good reason for it."

In a rare public statement, the Ethics Committee issued a response, explaining that the exact same information is duplicated for separate reporting that's made public on a more regular basis.

"All of the detailed post-travel reports filed by all House Members and staff — not just those of staff who file financial disclosure reports — are publicly available in a searchable online database," the committee said, directing any curious parties to the "Gift and Travel Filings Database," accessible by anyone at Clerk.House.Gov.

The Wall Street Journal reported that privately-sponsored travel rules require disclosure of the travel before lawmakers and aides depart, and must disclose the names of the travel sponsors to the Clerk of the House within 15 days of returning.

Those rules were enacted years ago, after a scandal involving former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and several congressional Republicans.

Lawmakers and aides went on approximately 2,000 trips in 2013 paid for by private sources.

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The House Ethics Committee was criticized over a change to travel disclosure rules for lawmakers and aides, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling for their reinstatement on Tuesday.
house, travel, disclosure, pelosi
413
2014-19-02
Wednesday, 02 Jul 2014 08:19 AM
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