Friday, February 10, 2006

Michigan lawmakers have taken dozens of privately-funded trips since 2002 (Sander Levin leads)

Sandy Levin loves his trips. The AP fires away.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jetting off to places like Hawaii, Africa and Europe, Michigan's congressional delegation has taken dozens of privately funded trips valued at more than $300,000 since 2002, according to records reviewed by The Associated Press.

The trips, paid for by think tanks, nonprofit organizations, and trade groups, could be banned under proposals being considered by Congress in the wake of an ethics scandal.

The AP then lists them.

Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, has taken 17 trips valued at more than $78,000, according to congressional disclosure forms, with destinations including Spain, Mexico, Hawaii and China. Much of the cost came from eight trips organized by the Aspen Institute, a global policy think tank that sponsors several seminars for lawmakers every year and bans participation by lobbyists.

• Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Detroit, has taken 11 trips worth more than $40,000, records show, including travel to Egypt, Nigeria, Brazil, Cuba, and a Caribbean cruise sponsored by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and General Mills.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has been on 13 trips since 2002, valued at about $28,000. About half of the cost came from trips to Barcelona and Moscow paid for by the Aspen Institute.

• Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, has taken 14 trips valued at nearly $29,000 with destinations ranging from conventions in Las Vegas sponsored by the broadcasting and electronics industries to retreats led by the Faith & Politics Institute, on which Upton sits on the advisory council.

• Rep. Joe Knollenberg, R-Bloomfield Township, took three privately funded trips between 2002 and 2005 worth nearly $12,000. A weeklong trip to Hawaii in early January to attend meetings sponsored by the American Association of Airport Executives raised eyebrows in the post-Abramoff environment.

• Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, has taken five privately funded trips worth more than $11,000. His most recent trip involved an appearance last month on ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

• Two Republican members from Michigan — Reps. Joe Schwarz of Battle Creek and Thaddeus McCotter of Livonia — have not taken any privately paid trips.

What is the ASPEN INSTITUTE? They sure seem to like Sander Levin and Debbie Stabenow. There sure have a nice hotel of their headquarters, that's for sure - Aspen Meadows

Their mission statement is extremely vague.

The Aspen Institute, founded in 1950, is an international nonprofit dedicated to fostering enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue. Through seminars, policy programs, conferences and leadership development initiatives, the Institute and its international partners seek to promote nonpartisan inquiry and an appreciation for timeless values. The Institute is headquartered in Washington, DC, and has campuses in Aspen, Colorado, and on the Wye River on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Its international network includes partner Aspen Institutes in Berlin, Rome, Lyon, Tokyo, and New Delhi, and leadership programs in Africa and Central America.

Their board of trustees has a lot of big names. Looks like an elitists' club. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Jack Valenti of the movie industry, Gerald Levin of Time Warner, United Nations leader Maurice Strong, David Gergen and Mort Zuckerman of US News and World Report, Michael Eisner of Disney, Former Texas Governor Ann Richards, Former Sec of Defense Robert McNamara (Yes, That McNamara), Former Senator Warren Rudman, Former Federal Reserve chair Paul Volker, and Henry Kissinger.

This sets off alarm bells with me. I'll post more when I find out more information about them, and Levin/Stabenow's connection to them.


Anonymous said...

I didn't see President Rogers listed. How many trips did he take, who sponsored them and how close are those sponsoring groups to Delay and Abramoff?

Republican Michigander said...

Mike had two (it was in the Argus, not online). I'm trying to find it in writing. I'll get it next time I'm at my dad's house.

One trip was to Detroit. I know that much.

Keith Richards said...

The board of trustees of the Aspen Institute is interesting. While there are a number of people listed who claim to be Republican, practically everyone on the list tends to support liberal politics.

It has always bothered me that government leaders take money from groups, organizations, unions, companies, and individuals to pay for expenses such as travel, furniture, meals, etc . . . Unfortunately this issue cuts across party lines so there is little incentive for either party to reform the rules on this.

My personal opinion is that the government should pay for expenses related to legitimate government business. This includes furniture, meals, travel, hotels, etc . . . If a politician goes on a political trip, it should be paid for out of his/her campaign war chest. Campaign funds should not be used to buy things like office furniture. And if politicians want to take a vacation, they should pay for it out of their own pockets, just like us peons.

I don't have a problem with a politician going out to lunch with a lobbyist, but the politican should pay for his/her own lunch.

Personally, I don't understand why politicians keep doing this. Every election cycle we see new articles about all the freebies that politicians are accepting and it gets everyone mad. Of course, it does not seem to be a voting issue so I suppose that politicians don't care how bad these freebies make them look, as long as they keep getting re-elected.

Anonymous said...

It is important to keep going on this story. As much as the MSM wants us to believe this is only a Republican issue, Democrats are just as involved.
It doesn't appear that Debbie is missing too many lunches, Carl either, but if you listen to the spin all you hear is Tom Delay.

Republican Michigander said...

Mike's two trips totaled $1209. One was to New York at Universal Music Group. The other was in Detroit for the American Association of Medical Colleges.