Feb. 7, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Members of Congress Travel Far on Private Groups' Dime

The American Israel Education Foundation, the top financier of Congressional travel last year when measured by number of trips and expense, shares an address, employees and board members with the pro-Israel lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Foundation Executive Director Richard Fishman, who signs off on the Congressional travel forms filed with the Ethics Committee, receives his $395,000 annual salary from AIPAC, as do the foundation's other paid employees.

A trip taken by four Members of Congress to South Africa and Botswana in August the most expensive month of privately financed Congressional travel to date was paid for by the International Conservation Caucus Foundation, which is closely linked to four lobbying organizations and a roster of corporate interests. Its "advisory council" consists of the conservation groups Conservation International, the Nature Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund. Its "conservation council" includes corporate heavyweights such as Volkswagen, Walmart, Unilever, Exxon Mobil Corp. and the American Petroleum Institute.

"I think after this last year, especially with AIPAC financing trips and literally flying about 20 percent of Congress to Israel, most groups are going to realize that there really is no restriction on financing trips anymore," Holman said. "I am expecting soon to run into a lobbying firm that just sets up a 501(c)(3) and starts financing trips."

Lawmakers who accepted the most travel last year included Reps. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), George Miller (D-Calif.) and Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), who each went on excursions that totaled more than $45,000.

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