Study reveals abuse
of Congressional travel
By Wendy Leopold
Luxury resorts. Private jets. A trip to the Wimbledon finals. These are just
a few of the perks enjoyed by members of Congress — with the tab picked
up by outside interests jockeying for influence.
In the last four and a half years, members of Congress have taken more than 4,800
trips funded by private groups at a price tag of $14.4 million, according to
an investigation by Northwestern’s Medill News Service in partnership with
American Public Media’s Marketplace evening business radio program and
its national documentary unit, American RadioWorks.
The investigation culminated in “Power Trips: Congress Hits the Road,” a
series of radio broadcasts and newspaper reports examining the little-publicized
rule allowing U.S. representatives and senators to take privately funded trips — and
the lack of enforcement of the rules. “Power Trips” puts the spotlight
on some of Congress’ most frequent flyers and the groups that most often
The reports are the result of a four-month investigation by a team of graduate
students from Medill School of Journalism under the direction of assistant dean
and Medill News Service co-director Ellen Shearer with Steve Henn of American
RadioWorks. Together, they built a navigable database including every travel
disclosure form for privately funded trips filed by Congress members from Jan.
1, 2000, through June 30, 2004.
According to the reports, Senate and House members since 2000 have accepted about
200 trips worth $400,000 without disclosing where they went, and another 31 trips
worth about $66,000 without disclosing who paid for them.
Members of the public can examine the records of their own — or all — Congress
members by visiting the Web-based database at www.americanradioworks.org/features/congtravel