Aides outnumbered House members 2 to 1, and spouses ran a strong second, on a recent European congressional trip that raised eyebrows because of its heavy staffing.
Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), chairman of the International Relations Committee, led the seven-day visit to Ireland and Hungary in early April. The entourage, first reported by the Hill newspaper, included 11 committee members (eight Republicans, three Democrats); all but one of their spouses; 17 congressional staffers; and six military aides.
Three aides were from Hyde's Illinois office, even though such congressional worker-bees generally do not go on foreign trips. The military retinue handled most of the advance work and included a physician for all participants and a physical therapist for Hyde, 80, who had back surgery last year.
"There was no need for that many staffers," said one lawmaker who made the trip and spoke yesterday on background because of the sensitivity of criticizing House colleagues. The three staffers from Hyde's district office "didn't even attend most of the meetings," the member said. "It was like the office vacation."
There's no rule on how many staffers can join congressional trips, lawmakers say, but it's rare for them to outnumber the legislators.
The delegation went to Dublin on April 2 for a "Transatlantic Legislators Dialogue" with European lawmakers. Topics included terrorism and intellectual-property theft. In Budapest, 10 meetings over several days focused on economic, military, diplomatic and law enforcement matters.
The trip was appropriately staffed, given the range of meetings and topics, said International Relations Committee spokesman Sam Stratman, who participated.
"You deal with a breadth of issues that is quite large" and requires significant staff support, he said.
Stratman said he did not know how much the trip cost.
Former Governors Still Politicking
They're out of office, but not, it seems, out of the game.
Three Democratic ex-governors have created an organization that will run television ads supporting their party's gubernatorial candidates and making sure "voters are aware of the failed policies of the Bush administration."
The Democratic Governors' Media Fund, is a "527 organization" co-chaired by former Alabama governor Don Siegelman and former South Carolina governor James Hodges. Former Maryland governor Parris N. Glendening is treasurer. It plans to run ads in at least three of the 11 states that will elect governors this year, including North Carolina, West Virginia and Vermont. Democrats are defending seats in two of those three states.
The group has not raised any money, Siegelman said. But it is holding a fundraiser May 27 in New York that will feature former president Bill Clinton and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who is rumored to be a potential running mate for John F. Kerry. Unlike federal candidates and parties, the organization is allowed to collect unlimited "soft money" contributions.
Political researcher Brian Faler contributed to this report.