- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 14, 2007


Two Republican lawmakers say they returned home early from a South Korean trip after they realized it might have violated House travel rules, but five Democrats with them did not.

One of the Democrats said Friday through a spokesman that the lawmakers stayed because the trip was approved by the House ethics committee.

The two Republican House members, Reps. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin and Phil English of Pennsylvania, told the committee they first learned the Korea Foundation helped finance the exchange program when Mr. Sensenbrenner noticed the foundation listed as a sponsor on a banner while they were in Seoul.

In a Dec. 6 letter to the panel, the congressmen said the committee previously had said the Korea Foundation was not a suitable source of funding because its budget is approved by the South Korean government. The letter was posted online Friday by PoliticalMoneyLine, which tracks congressional travel.

A spokesman for the committee said Friday he could not comment on the matter.

The trip in late November and early December was part of a program sponsored by the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, administered through George Washington University. The program is designed to allow members of Congress to meet their counterparts in Japan or South Korea.

Daniel Kohns, a spokesman for Rep. Michael M. Honda, California Democrat, said committee staff members told Mr. Honda’s office three times that the trip did not violate House ethics rules.

Henry Nau, the trip’s coordinator, said the Korea Foundation paid only the university staff’s travel expenses, not those of the lawmakers. He said the trip was cleared by the committee, and it was a “big shocker” when Mr. Sensenbrenner and Mr. English decided to leave.

Mr. Nau said there was no attempt to hide the Korea Foundation’s association with the trip. It was listed on the cover of a packet given to the members in the United States.

Mr. Sensenbrenner, who at the time was co-chairman of the U.S.-Japan Legislative Exchange Program with Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, said he notified Mr. McDermott and the other six members on the trip of the possible violation while in South Korea, but only Mr. English returned early with him.

In a second letter also posted online, Mr. Sensenbrenner resigned his position with the group, arguing that his staff had been told by the committee that it violated House rules for the Korea Foundation to contribute to the exchange.

“I am particularly upset that I issued invitations to my colleagues in the House under the impression that the funding of the exchange was completely proper,” the letter stated.

Mr. McDermott said he opted to continue the trip after Mr. Nau assured him that the Korea Foundation did not fund the congressional travel. Mr. Sensenbrenner left before he could discuss it with him, Mr. McDermott said.

In addition to Mr. McDermott and Mr. Honda, the other Democrats on the trip were Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas and nonvoting delegates Madeleine Z. Bordallo of Guam and Eni F.H. Faleomavaega of American Samoa.

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