In-person town hall meetings seem to be a thing of the past for Seventh District Congressman Billy Long, but junkets to Las Vegas, paid for by special interest groups, are on his approved list.
The Washington newspaper Roll Call reports today that the Consumer Electronics Association paid $2,000 for three days of Long's four-day stay in Sin City from Jan. 8-11. Records show Long paid his own expenses for one of the four days:
Travel disclosure reports filed with the House Ethics Committee show that participants used an exemption that permits additional travel time to far-off locations and paid their own hotel bills for an extra day or two, allowing them to spend several days in Vegas and still accept round-trip airfare and other expenses from the association — exactly what a 2007 rules change was supposed to eliminate.
The 110th Congress enacted new rules that bar entities that retain or employ lobbyists from sponsoring most forms of Congressional travel that last more than one day but left open the possibility that an additional night’s lodging would be approved in “exceptional” circumstances and that travelers could extend the trip out of their own pocket. Combined, the two provisions allow a one-day trip to morph into an excursion of four or more days.
“The point is to make sure these trips are business-related and do not turn into vacation junkets,” Public Citizen’s Craig Holman said. “By combining these two, it turns what should be a quick business trip into a junket. This is exactly what we wanted to stop.”