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Monday, October 17, 2005

Courant slams Johnson in Friday's editorial

I'm alittle behind on things right now (it's been a very busy weekend) and I know I'm playing catch-up but this editorial from Friday's Courant is too good not to bring up.

Nancy Johnson's trip to Ecuador is another example of politicians accepting gifts and favors from lobbyists and special interests groups and Democratic and Republicans voters can't stand it when politicains do things like this (remember how the public turned on Ernest Newton when he accepted gifts for favors).

From the Hartford Courant

When corporations and nonprofit groups pay for trips taken by member of Congress, they usually expect something in return - such as favorable legislation or federal grants.

Yet such junkets are entirely legal. An example involves a trip this past summer by U.S. Rep. Nancy L. Johnson of New Britain. The nonprofit Nature Conservancy, based in Arlington, Va., picked up the $17,900 tab to fly Mrs. Johnson and her husband to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands to observe the organization's work.

The Conservancy receives about $42 million in federal grants each year for its conservation projects around the world. Mrs. Johnson and three other House members, along with their spouses, were invited because they are members of a pro-conservation congressional caucus. The trip tab came to more than $64,000.

It should be obvious that the Conservancy potentially has a lot to gain from having Mrs. Johnson and the others as friends at budget time.

Mrs. Johnson and her colleagues ought to have paid their own way to avoid any hint of conflict of interest.

If, as Mrs. Johnson claims, the trip was educational, it would qualify as a legitimate public expense to be covered by Congress - with spouses, of course, paying their own way.

Accepting all-expenses trips from corporations, trade groups and nonprofits has been a routine - if unsavory - congressional practice for too long.

Since 2000, members of Congress have been showered with a whopping $16 million worth of such trips. Mrs. Johnson is one of the chief recipients - the beneficiary of more than $70,000 in air travel, meals, lodging and other expenses.