Roll Call's Kent Cooper reports:
The first two of possibly 31 members of Congress have returned and filed a travel report on a wonderful and free trip to Dublin, Ireland, for themselves and a guest. The gifts of free travel were estimated by the paying sponsors to cost between $6,875 and $11,903 for each person…
This type of free trip not only covers the members’ expenses but provides a rare opportunity for the sponsor to cover the costs of a spouse or family member. For members who are not home that much, the free trip is a great payback to the spouse. The spouse or family member has plenty of time for sightseeing and enjoying the foreign city.
The Ripon Society and the Franklin Center sponsored and paid for the Aug. 10-15 trip with an estimated budget of $450,000 to $750,000. The purpose of the trip was to meet with Irish officials and discuss political, economic and trade relations. With an average of only four hours of daily scheduled sessions (probably no attendance taken), the schedule also highlights visits to the Guinness Storehouse, Leinster House – The Irish Parliament, Dublin castle, Powerscourt Gardens, Newman House, Christ Church Cathedral, among others.
Sounds like a great trip, much like the junkets that lobbyist Jack Abramoff used to organize for favored lawmakers–with a small commitment to a "fact finding" or other nominally official duty, padded by ample time for sightseeing, wining, and dining–all paid for by the "foundation" that organized the trip. Longtime readers will recall former Rep. Bob Schaffer's Abramoff-arranged junket to the Marianas islands, where Schaffer "inspected" factories for labor abuses in between parasailing jaunts off the coast of Saipan.
The Colorado Independent follows up–guess which Colorado up-and-comer got invited?
House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor made the list. So did Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner…
Gardner’s office didn’t return messages Friday afternoon seeking comment. So far two lawmakers have submitted their travel disclosure forms with the amounts the think tanks are to pay.
It will be interesting to hear if Rep. Cory Gardner, Colorado's most upwardly mobile GOP member of Congress, actually went on this junket. It wouldn't be the first such trip for Gardner of course, who brushed with controversy during his first term after being photographed at a cozy and posh meetup at a Florida resort between select Republican lawmakers and the big campaign donors who love them. There have probably been others, too.
Membership has its privileges, and Cory Gardner has earned his reputation for taking full advantage.