In January, when much of America was exposed to freezing cold and fierce winds, Tom DeLay, leader of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives, took off for Hawaii with his wife. Their five-day junket was no ordinary trip: They checked in at the most expensive quarters; Tom played golf on a course designed by Arnold Palmer. The cost of the five-day indulgence came to $10.000 dollars, or $2,000 a day.
But that didn’t bother the DeLays, because they did not pay a penny of the expenses. Corporations and trade organizations that represent American airports and airlines covered all costs. DeLay was not the only legislator present who enjoyed this “free lunch”; more than 40 lawmakers and staff were beneficiaries of the same corporate kindness. The only thing expected from these guests was that they participate in the discussions that took place at the gathering.
Our source of information for this revealing information is a front-page story in The Wall Street Journal with a headline reading, “More Lawmakers Take Trips Funded by Corporations.” The subhead explains why: “Businesses Find New Ways To Sway Congress Members After Finance Reform, Rep. DeLay Heads to Hawaii.”
The airlines and airport industry are not the only ones to indulge in these “new ways to ‘sway’” legislators: The medical industry spent $117,000 on this in 2000 and more than doubled the sum in 2004; the finance business spent $245,000 in 2000 and increased it to $502,000 in 2004; the telecom and high-tech business spent $377,000 in 2000 and raised it to $759,000 in 2004; the transportation industry spent $321,00 in 200 and raised the amount to $348,000 in 2004; agribusiness spent $256,000 in 2000 and lifted it slightly to $298,000 in 2004. The energy industry spent $505,000 in 2000 and reduced its outlay to $406,000 in 2004. Roughly, from 2000 to 2004 the total outlay to sway lawmakers at the federal level doubled.
Not all the subsidized luxury travel is limited to the United States. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has flown more than a dozen House and Senate staff members to the Dominican Republic. The object, ostensibly, was to “educate” them as to what was going on in trade with the Caribbean.
The Wall Street Journal refers, sarcastically, to this procedure in order to persuade members and staff of Congress as “educational travel,” a truly clever euphemism for what in commoner circles would be called “bribery.”