- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Senators traveled to exotic foreign capitals and fabulous resort towns with beaches and golf courses in 2004 — all in the name of business and rarely on their own dime.

One such trip was taken by Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, who went to Cape Town, South Africa, for an international affairs conference, according to the Senate’s financial disclosure forms. That trip was paid for by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and the South African Institute of International Affairs.

Sen. Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, was reimbursed for travel expenses for himself and his wife, Diana, for a speaking engagement in Munich, Germany, for the German Marshall Fund of Washington.

Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, ranking Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee, reported travel to Coral Gables, Fla., for three days in February 2004 to participate in the annual U.S.-Spain Council conference. The trip was funded by the council.

And Sen. Debbie A. Stabenow, Michigan Democrat, reimbursed the Aspen Institute Congressional Program for travel, lodging and meal expenses for a May trip to Barcelona.

Congressional travel has been getting more scrutiny lately, in part because of the controversy surrounding House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. There are accusations that a lobbyist paid for some of his trips, which is not allowed.

Other private groups, however, can fund travel, which at times can include lavish meals and golf outings.

Republicans also participated. Foreign Relations Chairman Richard G. Lugar of Indiana went on seven trips paid for by the Aspen Institute think tank, including ones to Hawaii; Cancun, Mexico; Barcelona; Venice, Italy, and Geneva. Mr. Lugar is a member of that think tank.

Samaritan’s Purse picked up the tab for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s air transportation to Chad, Sudan and Kenya on a fact-finding mission last August, and for his meals there.

The complaint that the Senate is a “millionaires’ club” has some basis in fact, at least among the leaders. Mr. Frist reported blind trusts — in which the owner has no knowledge of where the money is being invested — worth between $7 million and $35 million. The income from the largest blind trust brought in $1 million to $5 million, his paperwork shows.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada didn’t have as much as Mr. Frist in the bank, but made $1 million to $5 million in 2004 by selling a piece of property in Las Vegas and a 47 percent interest in an adjoining property.

He also listed as major assets municipal and school district bonds worth between $895,026 and $2,101,000 and pension-plan stock in oil, medical, technology, banking and other companies worth between $383,047 and $1,552,000.

There will be at least one movie star in the Senate: Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, will appear in the summer movie “The Wedding Crashers” starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, with his payments directed to select charities, according to his disclosure form.

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