May 23, 2012
Ethics Committee Should Look Into Whether Lobbyists Were Behind Recent Possible Violation of Congressional Travel Rules
Public Citizen Asks That Park Strategies Be Investigated for Taiwan Junket
Washington, D.C.– Public Citizen filed a complaint today with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) asking that the agency look into whether Park Strategies, LLC, and its lobbyists violated federal law and congressional ethics rules by organizing and arranging privately sponsored travel for a member of Congress to Taiwan.
A trail of emails and other documents uncovered by ProPublica appears to show extensive involvement and leadership by former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato’s lobbying firm, Park Strategies, and several of its lobbyists in initiating and organizing an all-expense paid trip for Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.) and his wife to Taiwan in 2011.
“Much to his credit, Rep. Owens immediately paid the total $22,132 cost of the trip out of his own pocket when the news broke,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen. “Rep. Owens may not have been the real instigator of this. It looks a lot more like the lobbyists were at fault.”
Congressional ethics rules governing officially connected travel for members and staff prohibit lobbyist accompaniment or involvement in planning, organizing, requesting or arranging most trips. And following the Abramoff scandals, Congress passed the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 that, among other things, make lobbyists liable for misrepresenting the nature of trips or otherwise encouraging or causing violations of congressional ethics rules.
Public Citizen asks that the OCE investigate whether Park Strategies and its lobbyists violated ethics rules or the lobbying law. The complaint also requests that the agency determine whether the listed host, Chinese Culture University of Taiwan, paid the tab for the trip or whether it was paid for by other sources.
“We learned from the Abramoff scandal that if lobbyists are not held accountable for their actions, they often may break the rules,” said Lisa Gilbert, deputy director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “It is critical for the integrity of congressional ethics that lobbyists share in the responsibility for honoring the law and the rules.”
Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.