Congressional Democrats Jamaica Junket
I just received the following press release from a House of Representatives staffer who has also been sending messages promoting Rep. Blunt’s campaign for Majority Leader.
PELOSI: “Jamaican Me Crazy”
Democratic Members of Congress arrive in Jamaica for five-day trip
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica (AP) _ Six members of the U.S. Congress arrived in Jamaica on Wednesday to begin a five-day tour of the island, trip organizers said. The members _ who will discuss security and trade issues while visiting tourist sites _ landed in the resort town of Montego Bay, said Janet Madden, a spokeswoman for the Jamaican Embassy in Washington who was leading the trip.
The delegation included Democratic representatives Donald Payne of New Jersey, Gregory Meeks of New York, Albert Wynn of Maryland, G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, Lynn Woolsey of California and Stephanie Tubbs-Jones of Ohio, said Barry Featherman, CEO of the Inter-American Economic Council.
The trip comes as Republicans and Democrats in Congress consider new restrictions on members’ travel following lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s guilty plea on felony charges involving influence-peddling in Washington.
Payne is a chairman of the Congressional Caribbean Caucus. His Republican co-chairman, Bob Ney of Ohio, has come under intense scrutiny for ties with Abramoff.
On Friday, the members are scheduled to meet with Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson along with government and tourism officials, Madden said.
Other activities include visits to the resort town of Ocho Rios and a dinner reception at the Ritz-Carlton in Montego Bay, Madden said.
I would first note that the email’s subject line is rather deceptive, since Nancy Pelosi was apparently not on the trip. Second, arriving in “the resort town of Montego Bay” is hardly unusual. The only other airport of significance is in Kingston and Air Jamaica has direct flights from Washington’s Reagan National airport to Montego Bay. Kim and I flew into Montego Bay for our honeymoon, in fact. Third, this must be an advanced copy, as I can’t find this on GoogleNews yet even though there are usually dozens upon dozens of variants of AP wire stories there within minutes.
The trip is somewhat ironic in context of the Abramoff scandal and the scrutiny of congressional perks and travel. The piece does not, however, indicate who is paying for this trip.
Still, a five day junket touring Jamaica–during the winter, no less–does seem to fall into the “junket” category rather than legitimate business. Payne is on the International Relations Committee and its Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, of which Jamaica is a constituent, but one can hardly imagine what matters of vast importance could consume five days of his time there. Neither Meeks, Wynn, or Butterfield have obvious committee ties to Jamaica.