AxXiom for Liberty July 16,2010 Show Notes: Privately Funded Travel for Congress, Tom Coleand the Aspen Institute (for Humanistic Studies)

Privately Funded Travel for Congress

Opinions on privately sponsored trips range from enthusiasm to skepticism to outright disapproval. While some lawmakers and sponsors say the trips promote understanding, some government watchdog groups say they give sponsors disproportionate influence on Capitol Hill.

Gary Ruskin of the Congressional Accountability Project said: “Typically these trips help educate members of Congress only about one side of an issue. As such, sometimes they’re worse than not traveling at all.”

The Aspen Institute tops the list year after year for congressional trips

WASHINGTON, June 5, 2006 — The Aspen Institute spent more than $3.5 million on congressional travel in the 5½-year study period looked at by the Center for Public Integrity. No other sponsor’s spending came close.

Records show that the Washington, D.C.-based institute, founded in 1950 by Container Corp. of America board chairman Walter Paepcke, sent members of Congress on at least 660 trips from 2000 to mid-2005, to destinations such as Prague, Berlin and Barcelona. The trips were part of the group’s Congressional Program, which has the stated mission of bringing lawmakers together with “internationally recognized academics, experts and leaders to study their ideas and to explore various policy alternatives.”

The sponsors are often looking to influence policy, whether it’s in the realm of education, foreign relations, the environment or technology.

House Ethics Committee Expected to Propose New Rules Shortly to Legitimize Privately-Funded Trips for Members Domestically and Around the World

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The House Ethics Committee is expected to shortly announce new rules that would provide for the Committee to pre-approve privately-funded trips taken by House members in this country and around the world.

In addition to Chairman ”Doc” Hastings (R-WA) and his staff, who spent $70,000 on privately-funded trips during the period, the top spenders, including staff, were

Representatives Gene Green (D-TX), $198,000; Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), $130,000; Mike Doyle (D-PA) 95,000; Tom Cole (R-OK), $78,000 and Judy Biggert (R-IL), $60,000. A complete list of the amounts spent on privately-funded travel by House Ethics Committee members and their staffs is enclosed.{91FCB139-CC82-4DDD-AE4E-3A81E6427C7F}&DE={81DEF818-D817-4FC0-B4A1-767EBEBBF0E4}

WASHINGTON — Join Congress, see the world. Join a congressman’s staff, see more of it.

Private groups, corporations or trade associations — many with legislation that could affect them pending before Congress — paid nearly $50 million since 2000 to send members of Congress and their staffers on at least 23,000 trips overseas and within the United States, according to a study released Monday.

The trips included at least 200 journeys to Paris and 150 to Hawaii, room rates of up to $500 a night and trips on corporate jets that cost up to $25,000 a trip, according to a report by the Center for Public Integrity, American Public Media and Northwestern University’s Medill News Service.

“Some trips seem to have been little more than pricey vacations — often taken in the company of spouses or other relatives — wrapped around speeches or seminars,” the report said. “In many instances, trip sponsors appeared to be buying access to elected officials or their advisers.

Congressional aides took more than 70 percent of the trips, the study found. While the travel isn’t illegal, the report shines a light on how business is often done in Washington. It comes in a congressional election year when one of the biggest issues is corruption.

Key findings

From January 2000 through June 2005, lawmakers and their aides took at least 23,000 privately funded trips with a total value of almost $50 million.

  • Almost three-quarters of the trips were taken by staffers, who often influence how their bosses view issues and vote.
  • Ethics rules require that such trips be educational or investigative, but many were to vacation destinations — at least 200 to Paris, 150 to Hawaii and 140 to Italy.
  • Of the two dozen congressional offices on which trip sponsors spent the most money, 15 were Republican.
  • Of the 25 lawmakers who each accepted more than $120,000 worth of travel for themselves, 17 were Democrats.
  • At least 11 offices accepted more than $350,000 each in travel. Top beneficiaries included the offices of Reps. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and Don Young, R-Alaska.

    Source-The Center for Public Integrity


Top Sponsors Funding Travel, 2005-2008

#2 Aspen Institute


USA Today Reports;


The Aspen Institute, a non-partisan think tank, is among the largest trip organizers. This year, it sent 12 lawmakers to Madrid for a conference on Russian relations and 15 to Lisbon to discuss energy policy. Total cost: $251,000.

Dick Clark, a former Iowa Democratic senator who runs Aspen’s program, said the travel is paid for by independent foundations. He said the trips let lawmakers discuss policy questions with international experts.

“All I’m trying to do is bring scholarship to policymakers,” he said. “They’re …like study sessions.”


Tom Cole Aspen funded travel

Aspen Institute
Banff, Alberta
Attended meetings on education standards and public policy in the U.S. $6,690.80

Cole, Rep. Tom (-OK)
Aspen Institute
Dubrovnik, Croatia
Attended a conference on Islam and politics $11,058.00

Aspen Institute
Berlin, Germany
Attended the Aspen Institute’s congressional program on relations between U.S., Russia and Europe $9,855.60

Cole, Rep. Tom (-OK)
Aspen Institute
Krakow, Poland
To participate in a conference on U.S.-Russia-Europe relations $8,463.80

Cole, Rep. Tom (-OK)
Aspen Institute
Montego Bay, Jamaica
To participate in a conference on education reform $6,198.76

Cole, Rep. Tom (-OK)
Aspen Institute
Istanbul, Turkey
To participate in a conference on political Islam $6,617.15

Cole, Rep. Tom (-OK)
Aspen Institute
Punta Mita, Mexico
Participate in a conference on U.S. policy in Latin America $6,064.84

Cole, Rep. Tom (-OK)
Aspen Institute
Honolulu, HI
Participate in a conference on U.S.-China relations $10,768.96

Cole, Rep. Tom (-OK)
Aspen Institute
Rome, Italy
Participate in a conference on the global environment $9,032.20


Congressman Tom Cole from Oklahoma says that it’s his duty to “represent the views and values of the people of the Fourth Congressional District.”

Do those views and values include meetings held at the offices of lobbying firms, and money taken from lobbyists themselves?

In the middle of the day on March 2nd, Tom Cole walked into the offices of lobbying firm DC Navigators.

DC Navigators represents clients such as Citigroup, the Oklahoma Indian Gambling Association, the Video Gaming Association, Pacific Gas and Electric, and New York Life Insurance. For an hour and a half there, Cole met with representatives of political action committees who had paid for the privilege of access to a real member of Congress.

The fee, as described on the invitations sent out by Cole’s re-election campaign, was one thousand dollars each.


Members of Congress are elected to represent constituents, yet many candidates for office receive contributions from people who do not live in their states or districts. Large amounts of out-of-state contributors may indicate that candidates are gearing up for a national election, that they are beholden to special interests located outside their state or district, or both.

  • Rep. Tom Cole 2000 to present
  • Total $ 639,963
  • Percentage 36.30 % Out of state contributions
  • Ranked 65

3 responses to “AxXiom for Liberty July 16,2010 Show Notes: Privately Funded Travel for Congress, Tom Coleand the Aspen Institute (for Humanistic Studies)

  1. Tom Cole is sleeze that needs to be voted out of office.

  2. Crying As They Dragged Me From The Capitol

    Cole is anyone’s dog that will hunt with him. Of course, Laurel and Hardy over at okiepubis would say he’s just reaching out across the aisle. That’s all that matters to people like them and him, who have no principles.

  3. Pingback: OkW’s campaign roundup and commentary

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