Confirmation, rather than new information. And if a couple of Democrats get caught in the same net, so be it. Any member of congress who takes money from lobbyists should be investigated by the Ethics Committee regardless of party.
Newly disclosed documents from an American territory in the Pacific show that the powerful Washington lobbyist at the center of federal corruption investigations here paid directly for travel to the islands by several members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, as well as two senior aides to Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, despite House rules that bar such payments.
The lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, submitted bills to his law firm for more than $350,000 in expenses for several trips to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in 1996 and 1997 on behalf of the congressmen, as well as several others including Edwin Buckham, Mr. DeLay’s former chief of staff, and Tony Rudy, his former deputy chief of staff.
In letters and e-mail messages to the Marianas, Mr. Abramoff acknowledged that he had paid for the trips and asked the island government, which had hired him to lobby against proposed labor measures that would have affected the islands, to send him checks.
House travel rules bar lobbyists from paying for Congressional travel, even if the lobbyist is reimbursed by a group or government agency that is allowed to pay for travel.
The islands, under scrutiny for sweatshoplike garment factories, hired Mr. Abramoff in 1995 to help them fend off measures aimed at establishing American workplace and wage standards. The trips appear to start in 1995 and continue through at least 2000. In December 1996, Mr. Abramoff sent an e-mail message to a Marianas official urging reimbursement, saying the House Ethics Committee was “watching the trips very closely.” He signed off saying, “I leave for Saipan, with the chief of staff for the majority whip, on Wednesday morning my time.”
Ten days later, a travel agent for Preston Gates wrote to the same official, saying, “Per instructions from Preston, we have been using Jack Abramoff’s credit card for past tickets,” and asked that the Marians pay directly for future tickets.
When Mr. DeLay returned home in 1998, he declared the workplace measure dead.
The documents refer to trips taken by several members of Congress but give detailed expense breakdowns for just two Democrats.
One of them, Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, said in an interview on Tuesday that he had been assured that his trip was in full accordance with House travel rules and that the National Security Caucus Foundation had paid for it. Mr. Clyburn released a copy of the Dec. 17, 1996, letter inviting members of Congress on the trip.
“I’ve never heard of Abramoff, or whatever his name is, until all this stuff hit a few weeks ago,” Mr. Clyburn said, noting that the invitation from the caucus was signed by Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as the group’s representative. “The invitation was signed by a chairman of the Joint Chiefs. What was I supposed to believe?”