its not really a bribe is it??? its just kind of sort of a bribe that isnt really a bribe??? its ok?? right???

Congress fights ban on junkets paid by lobbyists

Associated Press Feb. 6, 2006 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON - The 17 members of Congress who went to Dublin, Ireland, on an Aspen Institute-paid trip last summer got a walking tour of the city. They also spent six or seven hours each of the four days in discussions with scholars and policymakers about U.S. relations with Europe and Russia.

It was not quite the same as the itinerary for trips arranged by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, when golf at St. Andrews' famed course in Scotland was the highlight.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, seeking cover for Republicans in an influence-peddling scandal, has proposed banning all such trips, whether they were to improve lawmakers' knowledge of an issue or their putting skills. His idea is running into resistance, even from his new second in command.

New House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, defends privately funded travel as essential and suggests allowing the trips if they meet rules.

Boehner, who also discounts several other proposals for overhauling lobbying rules, has taken more than three dozen privately funded trips at home and abroad since 2000.

"We can't lock members up in a cubbyhole here in Washington and never let them see what's going on around the country and around the world," Boehner said on Fox News Sunday. "Members need to be educated, they need to be kept up to speed on what's happening, and these trips, to a large extent, help educate members," he said.

Hastert's proposals, including restrictions on gifts and meals, were to have been released last week. They were delayed when several GOP members balked at some of the measures.

Congressional rules permit lawmakers to accept payment from qualified private sponsors for necessary food, transit and lodging involved in trips for speaking engagements or fact-finding trips.

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