House Inquiry on Trips Is Criticized as Weak

In the case closed Thursday, only Mr. Rangel, the powerful New York Democrat, was admonished, with the committee concluding that his staff had known that big corporations were financing the trips, rather than CaribNews, a newspaper based in New York.

But nearly 2,500 pages of documents released Friday about the inquiry only seemed to intensify questions. Members of Congress, including Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Michigan, significantly underreported what the sponsors had paid for airfare or hotels, the documents show.

Like other members, Ms. Kilpatrick told investigators she did not know that corporations had paid the travel bills. But she is quoted in the report as having thanked the corporate sponsors at the 2008 conference.

The report includes photographs taken at the conferences of the House members in front of the sponsors’ corporate logos.

“It seems a real stretch,” said David Vance, director of research projects at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center in Washington. Of the trips, he said, “You could not have found your way to the bathroom without seeing signs from Pfizer, AT&T, Verizon and other sponsors.”

House members cleared by the committee celebrated the decision on Friday.

“My staff and I have always been confident that we followed the procedures with regards to gaining approval for travel to the conferences,” said Delegate Donna M. Christensen of the Virgin Islands, who attended both the 2007 and 2008 events.

Others cleared by the committee were Representatives Yvette Clarke of New York, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Donald M. Payne of New Jersey.

NYT
2/26/2009