Tuesday, June 27, 2006

White House Staffers Not Above Accepting Subsidized Travel

White House staffers have caught the free travel bug that has previously been endemic to Capitol Hill, according to Newsweek.

As Congress debates a crackdown on members' and their staffs' accepting travel paid for by outside interests, newly filed records show Capitol Hill lawmakers aren't Washington's only frequent fliers. According to filings with the Office of Government Ethics, White House staffers have accepted nearly $135,000 in free trips since November 2004. Among those picking up the tab: some of the president's top business supporters, including the National Association of Manufacturers, and dozens of conservative and religious groups, among them the Southern Baptist Convention, Focus on the Family and the Federalist Society.

Records list most trips as speaking engagements or panel discussions -- including White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove's $2,600 trip last September to Aspen, where he attended a two-day retreat sponsored by financier Ted Forstmann. Al Hubbard, Bush's top economic adviser, also visited Colorado, reporting a $4,276 trip in June 2005 paid for by the American Enterprise Institute. Bush aides listed trips as far away as Norway, Germany, Latvia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Australia, where Rove aide Barry Jackson reported a $15,483 jaunt to Sydney to attend a conference on Australian-U.S. relations.

The most frequent traveler: Tim Goeglein, a White House point man for conservative groups, who reported $30,000 in free travel. Records show Goeglein's most frequent destination was Ft. Wayne, Ind., his hometown, where he reported five visits last year. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino says travel is part of "regular outreach," noting that all staffers were invited guests.

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