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Posted at 08:00 AM ET, 08/02/2012

Dan Burton does Bahrain; trip skirts ethics reforms

(Mark Wilson - GETTY IMAGES)
Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) and his wife traveled to Bahrain last year, a House ethics committee-approved trip with a $20,000-plus tab that was picked up by a nonprofit.

That all sounds A-OK, right?

Maybe not, says ProPublica reporter Justin Elliot. He’s reporting that the trip illustrates just how easy it is for people intent on influencing Congress to skirt reforms enacted in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal, including the rule that says lawmakers can’t accept gifts or trips from organizations that hire lobbyists.

Seems the Bahrain American Council, which paid for the Burtons’ trip, is awfully cozy with an organization that does. It shares staff and an address with Policy Impact, a lobbying firm that “would be barred from paying for Burton’s trip,” Elliot reports.

Burton’s office didn’t respond to ProPublica’s calls. The council president told ProPublica, “Policy Impact has helped with the business development of the BAC, as well as extending public relations services.”

The old set-up-a-nonprofit trick is tried and true among certain interest groups (ProPublica cites the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee as one), but this might be the first time a lobbying firm has been caught “exploiting the non-profit spinoff strategy.”

Who says there are no new ideas in this town?

By  |  08:00 AM ET, 08/02/2012

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