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'92 Travel at Taxpayer Expense Cut by More Than One-Third


WASHINGTON — The gridlocked House of Representatives was more landlocked than usual in 1992, as members sharply cut back their foreign travel in an election year teeming with voter unrest over Capitol Hill and Capital Beltway lifestyles.

Roll Call Report Syndicate's annual survey of official travel overseas by House members found that the number of trips declined by more than one-third compared with levels of preceding years.

The travel consists mainly of fact-finding committee trips or special jaunts authorized by Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.). It is funded by taxpayers through an array of legislative and executive branch accounts.

The survey of public records identified 134 House members traveling overseas during the year, a decline of 34% from the 204 members who took official trips abroad in 1991. They took 216 individual trips (down 39% from 1991) over 1,386 days (down 40%) to 460 destinations, including duplications (down 53%).

Travel in 1992 took an even sharper drop when compared with levels as far back as 1989, when Roll Call Report Syndicate began its survey. Travel figures for 1993 are not yet available.


"I think that members have gotten gun-shy about travel in general because the public doesn't like it," said Joan Claybrook, president of the Ralph Nader group Public Citizen.

"There's been a lot of negative press," said Armed Services Committee staffer Peter Steffes, "and I would say that maybe 10% of everything that's been reported is probably worthy of being reported. No matter how well-intentioned the travel is or how much is done for their constituents or the Congress, that never seems to come out. Members are saying it's just not worth it anymore."

However, 1992 produced several frequent fliers, most notably Democrat Jim McDermott of Washington. The three-term legislator from Seattle took five trips over 63 days to 20 countries, to become the reigning king of House travel.

McDermott, a doctor, undertook all of his travel as head of a task force monitoring the international spread of AIDS, his office said.

The top 1991 traveler, California Democrat Mervyn Dymally, tried hard to keep his crown. Dymally registered the same number of trips (five) and countries (20) as McDermott in 1992, but was away from the United States 44 days compared to McDermott's 63.

Ranking third was Democrat Edward Feighan of Ohio, with five trips over 29 days to six countries. Both Dymally, of Compton, and Feighan, of Cleveland, voluntarily left Congress in 1992.

Other top 1992 travelers--those with at least four jaunts--were Republican John Hammerschmidt of Arkansas (four trips, 38 days, 12 countries), Republican John Miller of Washington (four trips, 29 days, seven countries) and Democrat Robert G. Torricelli of New Jersey (four trips, 20 days, nine countries).

Legendary globe-trotter Stephen Solarz, a New York Democrat, took only one trip over 13 days to nine countries in 1992, after taking 16 trips over 166 days to 73 countries between 1989 an 1991. Solarz lost a tough reelection campaign last year.

Southern California representatives who were listed in the travel survey were Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Woodland Hills), one trip of four days to one country; Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove), three trips totaling 12 days to three countries; and Esteban E. Torres (D-La Puente), one trip of eight days to two countries.


Those with zeros in the travel column were Glenn M. Anderson (D-Harbor City), Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City), William E. Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton), Julian C. Dixon (D-Los Angeles), David Dreier (R-San Dimas), Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), Mel Levine (D-Los Angeles), Matthew G. Martinez (D-Monterey Park), Carlos J. Moorhead (R-Glendale), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), Edward R. Roybal, Maxine Waters and Henry A. Waxman (all D-Los Angeles). Anderson, Dannemeyer, Levine and Roybal are no longer in office.

Current Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles), Jane Harman (D-Marina del Rey), Steve Horn (R-Long Beach), Jay C. Kim (R-Diamond Bar), Howard P. (Buck) McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles), Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) and Walter R. Tucker III (D-Compton) were not in office in 1992.

Senate travel, which is reported to the public only in sparse detail, was not covered by the survey.

The image of congressional travel appears to be still reeling from a 1990 expose by ABC's "Prime Time Live" that gave a nationwide television audience its first detailed look at members of Congress at play on foreign soil. Hidden ABC cameras at a Barbados resort recorded several lawmakers consorting with and accepting freebies from Washington lobbyists. The lawmakers were on the final leg of a Ways and Means Committee trip.

Despite such high jinks, congressional travel overseas is seen by many as necessary to give lawmakers the firsthand knowledge and world perspective they need to do their jobs.


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