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.