Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Speaker in the henhouse

So much for making ethics reform the first order of business in the new year, as incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi promised during the election. One of the areas of concern she mentioned was House members’ widespread acceptance of free air travel from lobbyists and special interests.

So, what to our wondering eyes did appear yesterday but Santa Pelosi putting a big red bow on the House Ethics Committee and handing it over to Rep. Stephanie “Please Return Your Seat to Its Full Upright Position” Tubbs Jones, D-Cleveland—who just happens to be the flyingest member of Congress. Here’s what The New York Times had to say earlier about the frequent flyers of Capitol Hill:

The No. 1 traveler has been Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio, who is expected to be the next chairwoman of the House ethics committee. Tubbs Jones, who has taken 74 trips during the seven-year period, defends her trips, which have included a journey to a Las Vegas conference in 2005 courtesy of the United Steelworkers and a speaking engagement in Barbados earlier this year paid for by the National Bar Association.

“I make no apologies for the trips that I have taken during my tenure in Congress,” Tubbs Jones said in a statement. “As the only African American woman, and only Democratic woman on the Ways and Means Committee, I am often contacted by former constituents from my congressional district, and persons throughout the country for speaking engagements.”

At that rate, Stephanie was taking nearly one trip a month. Heck, seems like she’s taken almost as many trips as Jerry Garcia. You’ve probably heard that Sen. Harry Reid is planning on a government paid trip to Peru’s ancient city of Machu Picchu right after Christmas. A Reid spokesperson told the Washington Post that Reid, several other Senators and spouses, as well as staff will hear about “critical security and economic issues.” See PoliticalMoneyLine.

Do these people, like, have some part of their brain removed when they join the leadership club? That’s the only good explanation I can think of. Read the rest of the Times piece here. John Fund also had a nice piece on the subject.

The other interesting thing to note is that every one of the top 16 frequent flyers in Congress are all Dems. (Who, BTW, have the chutzpah to talk about a Republican culture of corruption.) Every list I’ve seen has been different in some way, but here’s one. You'll see some very familiar names:

1. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH): 71 Trips
2. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA): 69 Trips
3. Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN): 69 Trips
4. Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE): 68 Trips
5. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA): 63 Trips
6. Former Sen. John Breaux (D-LA): 61 Trips
7. Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC): 58 Trips
8. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT): 55 Trips
9. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA): 51 Trips
10. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA): 50 Trips
11. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH): 50 Trips
12. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL): 49 Trips
13. Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-MD): 48 Trips
14. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD): 48 Trips
15. Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL): 47 Trips
16. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN): 45 Trips


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