Roaming Gnome Runs Afoul of House Ethics Rules

Neil's lobbyist funded travel comes back to haunt him.

In 2005, Neil Abercrombie was part of the zealous Democrat attack on Republican Majority Leader Tom Delay that rebounded into an potential ethics investigation of the Democrats own travel excesses.  Neil was then among those furiously amending his own records to avoid being hoisted on his own petard.

The following narrative (source material provided below) tells a sordid tale of unethical travel perks provided by lobbyists, big league butt covering and glaringly inconsistent cover stories.

House Armed Services Committee member Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) took a two-day trip to Boston in June 2001 that was paid for by a lobbying firm with business before the committee, according to House travel records. (1)

In an apparent violation of House ethics rules, the $1,782 tab for the trip was picked up by the Rooney Group International, an Arlington, Va.-based firm that represents an array of defense companies. (1)

“When questions about the trip were first raised on April 20, my staff reviewed the matter and learned that the Rooney Group had been reimbursed for my air fare by Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts,” Abercrombie said. (2)

He had recorded that a lobbying group paid for his trip, but House rules forbid representatives from taking money for trips from lobbyists. (3)

Abercrombie says last week he corrected the form because a National Guard organization actually ended up paying for the trip. (3)

“It didn’t cost me a nickel,” Rooney said, though he added that he was unsure whether he paid for the trip and then was reimbursed by the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company. No officials of that group were available Wednesday to discuss the trip. (1)

Even if Rooney did get reimbursed, the trip would constitute a violation of House rules, said Melanie Sloan, of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan watchdog group. (1)

It’s not suddenly OK to make a trip on a lobbyist’s dime if you’re not doing it for the lobbyist client, or if the lobbyist is being reimbursed,” she said. (1)

Abercrombie “does not have a single vested business interest in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Rooney said, “and I don’t have a single client that he was going up there to speak to.” (1)

But in 2001, Rooney represented several defense industry clients with business before the Armed Services Committee, according to Senate filings. They included BAE Systems, an international manufacturer of military vehicles and aircraft; SaabTech USA, which designs electronic warfare systems; and Nammo, a Norwegian producer of ammunition. (1)

Editor’s Note:  Abercrombie received $19,190 in 2007-2008 and $17,500 in 2005-2006 from BAE Systems. BAE was in turn the recipient of an Abercrombie “earmark” for $2.4 million for “mammal awareness.

Sources:

(1.) Abercrombie Asks Ethics to Investigate His Travel

(2.) Abercrombie denies violating House ethics rules in 2001 trip

(3.) U.S. Rep. Abercrombie Changes Ethics Filing

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