Cochran, colleagues defend travel with aide

Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said CODELs are important, particularly for the Senate, where “you cannot ignore foreign policy.” He said that on such trips he took staff with him, often including his then Executive Assistant Susan Wells. Records show other lawmakers, including Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., have traveled with executive assistants.

Lott said that Wells, like Webber in Cochran’s office, “handled just about anything and everything” for his office.

“(Wells) started out as a legislative assistant, then an appointment secretary, then got a lot of other responsibilities added,” Lott said. “I think (Webber) has done that for Sen. Cochran over the years, coordinates a lot of the things he does, mans his Capitol office.”

Ryan Taylor, spokesman for Sen. Roger Wicker, issued a brief statement when asked about the issue.

“It would be unusual for staff not to travel with senior members of Congress,” Taylor said. “As such, Sen. Wicker is often accompanied by a member of his staff on official government travel.”

Russell said some of the CODELs, such as trips to Paris and London, have contributed to aerospace and defense jobs. He provided a list including 17 companies or deals and thousands of jobs, including GE Aviation plants in Batesville and Ellisville and the sale of Mississippi-built helicopters to Thailand and radars to South Korea.

Records show Webber in recent years also travels frequently with Cochran on trips back to Mississippi and other in-country trips.

The McDaniel campaign had no immediate comment on the travel.

Clarion Ledger