Congress has been criticized for many things in recent months — fumbling on immigration reform, failing to pass basic bills for state services, leaving the long-term unemployed without help — you name it. Now you can add obscuring details of who's paying for lawmakers' travel to the list. As first observed by National Journal, the House Ethics Committee — which is in charge of establishing the rules by which Congress operates — quietly removed a requirement to list "sponsored travel" on their annual financial disclosure forms. Sponsored travel refers to those trips lawmakers take that are paid for by groups outside Congress, often agenda-based or lobbying organizations. The trips have a tendency to be lavish and extend to lawmakers' family and loved ones, and came under fire in the 1970s after Watergate and in 2006, after the Jack Abramoff scandal.
While the move has some Congressional watchdog groups alarmed, The Huffington Post points out that Congress will still be reporting these trips as they occur on the Clerk of the House's website. While that still doesn't provide quite as good an overview as the annual disclosure forms, it does mean that the internet will be the best way to keep track of who is wining and dining your lawmaker, and when.
Update: Congress may be backing down from the move. On Thursday, Congressman Mike Conaway, Chair of the House Ethics Committee told National Journal his committee would reverse the decision.