Special interest groups paid more than $135,000 for members of Congress and staff to travel during the August recess, a Business Insider report discovered.
Official documents obtained by the publication showed the trips, such as a $14,362.60 junket to Iowa for 13 Congressional staffers, paid for by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, and 12 other organizations, to attend the Annual Biofuels Science and Sustainability Tour.
The event included buying dinners for the attendees at the Iowa State Fair as well as tours of the state’s major cities, the report said.
According to the report, many of the trips dealt with issues that are included at the top of the Congressional agenda, such as infrastructure and clean energy.
In another excursion, 11 staffers went to Montana to learn about the state’s difficulties in providing broadband Internet service.
That trip, costing almost $19,000, was paid for by the Foundation for Rural Service, comes as Congress is contemplating some $65 million to improve broadband service nationwide in the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure package.
Yet another $9,000 and change was paid by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society to send four Republican staffers, and one Democratic staffer, to the HIMSS annual conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, to explore tele-health options like those used extensively at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The largest trip, however, took three Republican Congressmen to the Ukraine for a total of $46,933.34, paid for by the Humpty Dumpty Institute and the American Charity Fund for Helping Children of Pridnestrovie and Moldova Inc.
Rep. Barry Moore, R-Ala., Rep. Troy Nehls and Rep. Tony Gonzalez, both of Texas, went on that junket, according to the report.
Such trips are not uncommon in Washington and are found on both sides of the aisle.
Earlier this year, former Democratic presidential candidate, Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., and Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., took a trip to Qatar to ride camels on the beach with their wives, courtesy of the Qatar Business Council.
While proponents say the trips give legislators and their respective staffers a chance to learn about the issues they are working on in Congress, critics fear the “loopholes” allowing the junkets give the funding organizations “undue influence” in the decisions the legislators finally make, according to the story.
According to the report, the recent spending is just a drop in the bucket, compared to the millions spent on such trips before the pandemic.