CL – Thompson should have just said no to free trips to Caribbean

Closer to home, the House ethics exonerated five other members of the Congressional Black Caucus who were on either of the 2007 and 2008 trips or on both – including House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Bolton. But the panel said all six would have to pay the costs.

Other lawmakers cleared in the probe were Democratic Reps. Yvette Clarke of New York, Donald Payne of New Jersey, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Michigan and Donna Christensen, the nonvoting delegate from the Virgin Islands. The ethics committee said the traveling House members relied on false information from the listed sponsors of the trips, the Carib News, a New York newspaper, and the Carib News Foundation.

Thompson is not the first congressman to have his official travel questioned. He’s not even the first Mississippi congressman to face that scrutiny.

But there’s an easy way for member of Congress to avoid being the target of ethics investigations. When trips to exotic locales are offered, make sure the purpose of the trip really is strictly business or don’t get on the plane. Officials who “just say no” to all freebies don’t have to worry about who might be “sponsoring.”

“Wink, wink, nudge, nudge” congressional junkets have become the rule, not the exception. In this dour economy, taxpayers resent such largesse even more than usual.