OTHER VOICES

Congressional free lunch

Posted March 22, 2012, at 5:38 p.m.

You may have heard this phrase: “You can’t get something for nothing.”

Or you surely have heard this one: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

And there’s no such thing as a free, privately funded trip for our members of Congress.

Congressional travel became a hot topic with the Jack Abramoff scandal, in which the lobbyist plied congressmen with trips, gifts and meals in exchange for political favors. After Abramoff, in 2007, Congress passed a new ethics rule that says its members can’t accept trips that last more than one day from organizations that retain lobbyists.

But that rule has been subverted by another phrase: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Organizations are still paying for congressional trips but have separate but affiliated lobbying organizations. And members of Congress are still going on trips.

Members of Congress, or their mouthpieces, say these types of trips are educational. And probably, they are. But they’re intended to educate the trip-takers on the organization’s point of view.

There really is no such thing as a free lunch. The thing is, we’re paying for it, too, when our representatives are getting their “education” from these organizations.

The Post-Crescent, Appleton, Wis. (March 22)

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