Cooper Leads Congress in Traveling

Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper of Nashville has taken six privately financed trips this year, with values adding up to more than $47,000 — the highest travel tab of any member of Congress, The Tennessean reports.
Three of the trips, sponsored by the nonprofit Aspen Institute, took Cooper and his wife, Martha, to San Juan, Puerto Rico; Barcelona, Spain; and Banff, Alberta. Topics included energy-security issues and education.
Travel to Barcelona to address “policy challenges in the Muslim world” cost $18,487 — Cooper’s most expensive trip this year, according to the nonpartisan watchdog group Legistorm. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, also joined that trip.
Four years after Congress imposed new restrictions on travel funded by outside groups, federal lawmakers took 415 privately funded trips between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30. That’s a jump of nearly 75 percent compared with the number of trips they took during the same period in 2010, according to a USA TODAY review of congressional travel records compiled by the nonpartisan CQ MoneyLine.
The value of the trips exceeds $3.1 million, making it the most expensive year of travel since Congress enacted ethics rules in 2007 aimed at clamping down on lobbyist-funded trips, records show.
….Big-ticket items include travel by more than 80 lawmakers to Israel, much of it courtesy of the American Israel Education Foundation, a charity affiliated with the influential pro-Israel lobbying group American Israel Political Affairs Committee. The average cost: $18,120.
Tennessee’s freshman Republicans, Reps. Diane Black, Stephen Fincher, Scott DesJarlais and Chuck Fleischmann, joined that trip with their spouses.
Ethics rules approved four years ago bar lawmakers from taking trips longer than two nights at the expense of corporations, unions and others that employ lobbyists. The changes were prompted by lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s 2006 admission that he provided gifts and luxury trips to lawmakers and other government officials in exchange for official favors.
However, the House and Senate imposed few limits on travel funded by nonprofits, which
are now are funding dozens of lawmaker trips each month.

Note: The Legistrom list of travels by Tennessee members of Congress is HERE.

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