WASHINGTON — The House Ethics Committee failed to follow its own rules requiring lawmakers to seek pre-clearance for privately funded travel in 2013, records show, a lapse that now may have the committee in the peculiar position of investigating itself, USA TODAY reports.
House rules created in December 2012 require all members who want to go on trips paid for by private groups, not the government, to seek clearance from the Ethics Committee at least 30 days before the trip. But records analyzed by USA TODAY show that when 10 members and their staffers went on a May 2013 trip to Azerbaijan, the committee was not enforcing that standard.
The Ethics Committee approved the travel for these members but is now investigating whether the trip was improperly funded. Public records suggest the committee may not have required all of the travelers to comply with the pre-travel approval rules.
The Azerbaijan trip was first investigated earlier this year by the Office of Congressional Ethics — a separate panel created to refer matters to the Ethics Committee — but the committee asked OCE to shut down its investigation, apparently the first time it has made such a request since OCE was created in 2007.
The Washington Post reported in May that the OCE has concluded the trip, which was described as being sponsored by several Turkish- and Balkan-American non-profits, was in fact improperly paid for by the state-owned oil company of Azerbaijan.