Members of Congress embarked on the most privately funded trips last year since the practice was curtailed in response to a high-profile lobbying scandal, and Democratic lawmakers topped the list, Roll Call reports.
Private groups financed 1,942 trips—some domestic and others overseas—for lawmakers and their staffs last year, which cost a total of $5.1 million. Congress put more restrictions in place on such trips in 2007 after lobbyist Jack Abramoff was convicted of bribing public officials.
Rep. Mike McIntyre (D., N.C.), who retired last year, accepted the most trips with a total cost of $67,295:
In February 2014, five weeks after announcing his plans to end his congressional career, McIntyre took the most expensive trip on record since the year 2000. He traveled to the southern coast of Australia with his wife, Dee McIntyre, for an eight-day trip sponsored by the Australian defense industry association Defence Teaming Centre Inc. The nine-term Blue Dog moderate was invited as a member of the House Armed Services Committee "to speak on the U.S. pivot to Asia-Pacific and opportunities arising for defence industry in South Australia," according to forms filed with the House Ethics Committee.
McIntyre’s itinerary included shipyard and submarine tours, meetings with industry executives and government officials, plus a South Australian wine industry brief. The price tag for the stay in Adelaide, including meals and a room at the city’s five-star Hilton hotel, was $49,635.
Rep. David E. Price, D-N.C., ranked second, accepting $53,939 worth of travel. As a leader of the House Democracy Partnership, a bipartisan commission that counsels budding democracies on building parliamentary infrastructure, Price’s travels over the course of his 14 terms in Congress have taken him to Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.
Price in particular praised the Aspen Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based policy studies organization that sponsored $615,801 worth of trips in 2014, for remaining "insistently independent" and for linking lawmakers with "nonpartisan experts."
However, the group has donated the majority of its campaign contributions to Democrats since 1989, including more than $40,000 to President Barack Obama.