Private trips go on despite scrutiny

Thirteen House and Senate aides took a privately paid trip to Europe over the Memorial Day recess despite the intense scrutiny of the funding of such excursions.

The aides departed last Saturday for a week’s stay in Prague, Paris and London courtesy of the Tax Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to lowering taxes and improving simplicity, to learn about tax issues facing Western Europe, said Bill Ahern, the foundation’s spokesman.

Ahern also provided a House ethics committee letter that gave guidance to the foundation on the ethical boundaries of private travel. But Reps. Doc HastingsDoc HastingsCongress just resolved a 20-year debate over Neolithic remains Boehner hires new press secretary GOP plots new course on Endangered Species Act reform MORE (R-Wash.) and Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), the chairman and ranking Democrat on the panel, said that they do not provide advice to outside organizations and that it would be “inappropriate … to suggest that the trip had been ‘pre-cleared’ by the Committee.” 

The staffers — most of whom work for lawmakers with jurisdiction over key tax issues — are employed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Orrin HatchOrrin HatchIndustry 'surprised' by DOJ appeal in data warrant case US, South Korea can bury the trade barrier hatchet this week Time to get Trump’s new antitrust cop on the beat MORE (R-Utah), Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.), Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.), the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Reps. Phil English (R-Pa.), Jim McCrery (R-La.), Sam JohnsonSam JohnsonWeek ahead: Tech awaits Trump budget Older Americans Month — slashing funds for our seniors is the wrong thing to do Ryan transfers record M to House GOP's campaign arm in March MORE (R-Texas), Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) and William Jefferson (D-La.).

According to the itinerary provided by Ahern, the 13 aides will be treated to a walking history tour of Prague and meetings with Czech government officials. In Paris, they will get a briefing from officials at the U.S. Embassy and tour a Pepsi bottling plant.

After less than two days in Paris, the group will travel to London to meet with British tax officials, including a meeting with an aide to Prime Minister Tony Blair at 10 Downing St., his official residence, and it will get a tour of Parliament.

Jonathan E. Kaplan