Updated at 2:37 p.m.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that the House Ethics Committee must restore the disclosure rule that required members of Congress to report privately-funded travel -- a requirement that the National Journal reported Tuesday had been quietly removed.
“The new rule presented by the Ethics Committee for disclosure of travel must be reversed. While the committee’s aim was to simplify the disclosure process, Congress must always move in the direction of more disclosure, not less," Pelosi said in a statement. "If the Ethics Committee does not act, then we will call upon the Speaker to allow a vote on legislation to reverse this decision. In the meantime, Members are encouraged to disclose such trips to both the Clerk and in their annual disclosures.”
According to the National Journal report, the House Ethics Committee got rid of the requirement that members of Congress and their staffs report gifts of free travel.
In his report Tuesday, National Journal reporter Shane Goldmacher wrote:
The move, made behind closed doors and without a public announcement by the House Ethics Committee, reverses more than three decades of precedent. Gifts of free travel to lawmakers have appeared on the yearly financial form dating back its creation in the late 1970s, after the Watergate scandal. National Journal uncovered the deleted disclosure requirement when analyzing the most recent batch of yearly filings.
"This is such an obvious effort to avoid accountability," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "There's no legitimate reason. There's no good reason for it."Free trips paid for by private groups must still be reported separately to the House's Office of the Clerk and disclosed there. But they will now be absent from the chief document that reporters, watchdogs, and members of the public have used for decades to scrutinize lawmakers' finances.