The Republican-controlled House Ethics Committee has removed a requirement that lawmakers report trips paid for by lobbyists on their annual financial disclosures, according to National Journal, making it easier for them to hide which special interest groups are paying for them to travel:
The move, made behind closed doors and without a public announcement by the House Ethics Committee, reverses more than three decades of precedent. Gifts of free travel to lawmakers have appeared on the yearly financial form dating back its creation in the late 1970s, after the Watergate scandal. National Journal uncovered the deleted disclosure requirement when analyzing the most recent batch of yearly filings.
“This is such an obvious effort to avoid accountability,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “There’s no legitimate reason. There’s no good reason for it.”
Free trips paid for by private groups must still be reported separately to the House’s Office of the Clerk and disclosed there. But they 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 more you can hide, the less accountable you can be,” Sloan said of lawmakers. “It’s clear these forms are useful for reporters and watchdogs, and obviously a little too useful.”