It's the corruption, stupid! Lobbyists continue to control our politics, yet no one seems to give a damn. Sometimes, cliches are approrpiate -- we get the Congress we deserve. And American voters don't deserve much.
Members of the U.S. Congress and their aides took free trips worth nearly $50 million paid for by corporations, trade associations and other private groups between January 2000 and June 2005, according to a study released on Monday.
Some of the 23,000 trips featured $500-a-night hotel rooms, $25,000 corporate jet rides and visits to popular spots such as Paris, Hawaii and Colorado ski resorts, said the study, by the Center for Public Integrity, American Public Media and Northwestern University's Medill News Service.
"In many instances, trip sponsors appeared to be buying access to elected officials or their advisors," the study said.
While some excursions were legitimate fact-finding missions, others appeared to have been little more than "pricey vacations" wrapped around speeches or seminars in which the lawmaker was joined by family members, the study said.
The data emerged from a nine-month-long review of congressional travel disclosure forms and coincided with ongoing federal investigations of political corruption and efforts to clean up how Congress does business.
No surprise who took the most free trips:
Former House Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay and his staffers accepted about a half million dollars in trips during the period under review -- more than any other congressional office, the study said.