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Conservative rep, government watchdog raise concerns over junkets

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and the chief of strategy for government watchdog Common Cause raised concerns this week about the use of junkets taken by senior Justice Department officials this year. 

"I think they can have an influence that's not wholesome and that can affect the notion of whether they're going to be independent investigators," Biggs told Hill.TV's Alison Spann Thursday. 

"I think it should end, and it indicates that so much that's gone on that affects the independence of the police apparatus in the United States today," he continued. 

Bigg's comments were in response to a report from Hill.TV's John Solomon that found senior officials used the junkets to take trips to a variety of locations, such as Panama City, Morraco, Paris, Qatar and São Paulo, Brazil. 

Solomon reported that Office of Government Ethics (OGE) filings revealed that the Justice Department under both Democratic and Republican administrations has permitted hundreds of its employees to accept free travel, lodging and food from special interests across the globe.

Common Cause's chief of strategy, Stephen Spaulding, decried the trips in a separate interview Friday and urged government travel to be disclosed. 

"That travel has got to be disclosed. It needs to be a matter of public record, and there's a real danger that people paying for this travel might have another agenda, and it's one that we need to know about," Spaulding told Hill.TV's Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton Friday on "Rising."

"When their [trips] are being paid for by potentially enemies of the United States, or others with a specific political agenda, they want favors," he continued. "If it's going to be a quid pro quo, we deserve answers." 

"This has all got to be disclosed. This has to be a matter of public record. I think the American people have a right to know how their government is operating, how they're taking trips, where they're going, why they're going, what's on the agenda, who's paying for it. Those are all legitimate questions," he said. 

— Julia Manchester