Lavish Congressional Fishing Vacations May Have Violated Ethics Rules

Since 1996, at least 10 current and former lawmakers have attended an annual “Waterfall Fishing Tournament” at the expensive Waterfall resort in Alaska. Marketplace, which reported on this story yesterday, noted that the event benefitted a charity run by former Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK). Some facts on the trip:

The trip was an opportunity for “the energy industry’s top brass” to influence lawmakers. In addition to the lawmakers, high-ranking executives from the nation’s top oil firms — including British Petroleum, American Petroleum Institute, and Amoco — attended the Waterfall excursions. Companies with business before Congress occasionally provided free trips to Waterfall for lawmakers and top executives on private company jets.

Lawmakers may have violated congressional ethics rules by not paying for the trips. A 1996 letter to Murkowski from the Senate Ethics Committee “expressly forbid senators from accepting free travel or lodging to attend the event.” A separate 1996 rule also banned House members. Nevertheless, nine out of the 10 lawmakers who attended the Waterfall trips accepted free travel or lodging. (Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) was the only lawmaker who personally paid for the total costs.)

Marketplace could find no PAC, personal, or campaign payments for the trip from Hastert, Lott, or Murkowski. While the House lifted its ethics restrictions in 2003, Hastert went on the Waterfall trips in 1999 and 2000 and was therefore bound by the rules.

View more images from the Waterfall trips here.