The American Society of Association Executives is urging the U.S. House of Representatives to think twice before voting on a proposal that would ban privately-funded travel for elected officials and congressional staff. This measure reportedly will be under consideration within the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress, when it convenes in January.
John Graham, president and chief executive officer at ASAE, said any proposal should be careful not to lump educational trips toand conferences in the same category as junkets.
“The point has been made by many that the term ‘lobbying’ today too often conjures up images of all-expense paid vacations masquerading as ‘fact-finding’ trips. The reality is that there is tremendous value in a member of Congress or congressional staff attending a fact-finding tour or association conference outside the nation’s capital,” said Graham in a statement issued on November 27. “Such meetings and conferences allow lawmakers to see and hear at the source how legislation impacts a particular constituency,” the ASAE chief explained. “The perspective gained from a meeting attended by thousands of individuals with expertise in a particular field or profession could be considered crucial to the construction of sound legislation.”
ASAE suggests that Congress create a pre-approval process for travel, whereby an independent oversight body can make a distinction between unnecessary, recreationally-driven trips and educational trips to an association meeting.