Article published Oct 23, 2006
Another day, another scandal in Congress
U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, faced with a published report that he did not properly report a 2001 expense-paid trip to the Northern Marianas, says he will ask the House Ethics Committee for guidance.
That’s about like looking for a moral compass from the Cali Drug Cartel. Ethics has become a sick joke in the U.S. House.
Sweeney, a New York Republican seeking re-election, insists he did no wrong. He said he believed the government of the Marianas, a U.S. territory, paid for his trip. And legislators aren’t required to report government-paid travel.
But according to published reports, the Saipan Chamber of Commerce financed the junket. It came just as convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff was lobbying on behalf of the Northern Marianas
government in opposition to a set of proposed labor reforms.
Tony Rudy, who had just left the staff of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to work for Abramoff, accompanied Sweeney. Rudy is now cooperating in a federal investigation into congressional corruption involving Abramoff.
Marianas is infamous for its sweatshops and brothels. But Sweeney returned singing the praises of the territory. His home state had worse sweatshops, he said.
Why would a New York lawmaker be of interest to the business community in the Marianas?
At the time of his trip, Sweeney had just been named to the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which could potentially direct federal funds sought by the commonwealth.
Sweeney’s apparent collusion with lobbyists on the 8,000-mile junket isn’t the worst of the ethics
controversies in the House. It’s just one of the most blatant in a body that refuses to reform. (Tuscaloosa News Editorial)