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'Tis the Time for Politicos to Travel

August 20, 1987|MICHAEL BLUMFIELD | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — It's August. Do you know where your congressman is?

If he's Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), you most likely don't know, and he wants to keep it that way.

Waxman has joined an unspecified number of members of the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control who are on a European and African study of drug trafficking said to be so dangerous that their itinerary is being kept secret to lessen the hazards to the congressmen.

"They're going to some pretty hard-core places and we want to keep them safe and sound," says Bob Weiner, the press secretary for the committee.

His explanation has drawn some raised eyebrows in Washington, where those left sweltering in 90-plus-degree heat often assume the August congressional break is the time for junkets. Only a few Southern California representatives, however, are traveling on taxpayer money this summer.

Among them is Rep. Augustus F. Hawkins (D-Los Angeles), and two other members of the House Education and Labor Committee, which Hawkins chairs. Taking their spouses and three staff members along, the representatives are visiting France, Sweden and West Germany to study labor and educational matters, including such things as French vocational education projects.

French students will be on vacation themselves when the congressmen visit.

"Every day (of the trip) is covered with some form of a meeting or some activity that relates to the committee's agenda," insists Jay Butler, the committee press secretary. "Obviously, there's going to be some free time."

If Hawkins' two-week trip sounds suspiciously cushy, the trips planned by Rep. Bob Dornan (R-Garden Grove), and Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), hardly sound like travel-agency specials. Dornan, a member of the House Foreign Affairs' Western Hemisphere subcommittee, is heading to Guatemala to check on the Arias peace plan for Central America and Haiti to investigate that violence-torn island.

What's Ulan Bator?

Cranston, between stops in Moscow and Seoul, will hop on the Trans-Siberian Railway for a 36-hour ride to Ulan Bator. What's Ulan Bator? The capital of Mongolia, of course, where Cranston will spend three luxurious days and nights.

Cranston, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the East Asian and Pacific Affairs subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee, wants to learn more about the strategically significant country. The fact that Mongolia is far from overrun with Kodak-toting Americans only makes it more intriguing to the senator, according to his press secretary, Murray Flander.

"Nobody goes to Mongolia," Flander says. "Not even Mongolians."

Other press secretaries, when asked where their bosses are, quickly dispel any notions that they are seeing the world at their constituents' expense. They immediately point out that the good congressman is "on a personal vacation" or leading a " privately financed trade mission."

Some report that the representative is back at the home office, in accordance with the terminology used to describe the August portion of the congressional schedule. Says Austin Hogan, tongue in cheek, of his boss, Edward R. Roybal, (D-Los Angeles), "When they changed the name from 'recess' to 'district work period,' he took it seriously."

And believe or it not, two of the 14 representatives from Southern California--Democrats Julian C. Dixon of Culver City and George E. Brown Jr. of Riverside--are actually staying in Washington and spending at least part of their time in their offices.

Says Cheryl Mendosa, press secretary to 12-term member Brown, "We've tried for years to send him on a vacation. He just won't go."

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