The House Ethics Committee altered its method for documenting travel expenses for members of Congress that are paid for by outside groups.
Until this year, members of Congress have been required to record these free trips on Financial Disclosure Statements, which are completed annually and accessible to the public.
This year, that has changed.
An article published by the National Journal’s Shane Goldmacher on Monday reported on the change, arguing “free trips paid for by private groups … will now be absent from the chief document that reporters, watchdogs, and members of the public have used for decades to scrutinize lawmakers’ finances.”
The article notes travel expenses paid for by outside groups “must still be reported separately to the House’s Office of the Clerk and disclosed there,” but Goldmacher claimed the change will make it “a little more difficult to ferret out which members of Congress are lavished with all-expenses-paid trips around the world.”
Business Insider spoke with a House source who defended the rules change.
The House source insisted there is “absolutely no net change in available information” and noted data on travel expenses is still accessible to the public even though it is no longer on the disclosure form.
“Private travel expenses are still searchable and sortable by the public on the Clerk’s web site,” the source said. “The section on the Financial Disclosure form was eliminated because it was highly duplicative and redundant.”
The source explained further that members of Congress are still required to complete Pre-Travel and Post-Travel Disclosure forms, like this one filled out last week by Rep. Paul Ryan. These forms detail their travel expenses, must be approved by the Ethics Committee, and are also available to the public.
Because of this, the House source stressed “the information is all still available” and added the Ethics Committee will be releasing a public statement promptly to clarify the changes.
However, not everyone in Congress thinks the changes are inconsequential.
In response to the news, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released a statement arguing, “the new rule presented by the Ethics Committee for disclosure of travel must be reversed.”
“While the committee’s aim was to simplify the disclosure process, Congress must always move in the direction of more disclosure, not less,” said Pelosi. “If the Ethics Committee does not act, then we will call upon the Speaker to allow a vote on legislation to reverse this decision.”
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