San Diego Congress has been busy talking about reforming its ethics in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal, but that hasn't stopped a lot of members from hitting the road thanks to freebies offered by lobbyists, think tanks, labor unions, and law schools. Democratic congresswoman Susan Davis, for one, was on the move, taking a trip with her husband, Dr. Steve Davis, to Punta Mita, Mexico, to "participate in a conference on U.S. policy in Latin America," sponsored by the Aspen Institute of Washington, D.C. Expenses for the trip, which took place from January 8 to 13 of this year, included $1352.73 each for Davis and her husband's transportation, plus $3175 for lodging and $2025 for meals. Punta Mita, 26 miles northwest of Puerto Vallarta on the Mexican coast, features "pristine beaches" and a Four Seasons Resort.
While Davis took a break from her familiar stomping grounds, other members of Congress were happy to get free trips to San Diego. In February, Ohio Republican Michael Turner, North Carolina Democrat Brad Miller, Utah Republican Robert Bishop, and Massachusetts Democrat William Delahunt trekked here to participate in the Congress-Bundestag Forum 2006, paid for by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, sponsored largely by the German and U.S. governments. "For four days, German and American lawmakers gathered in San Diego, California, to participate in the third annual Congress-Bundestag Forum, where they renewed and deepened contacts with each other and shared knowledge about political processes on both sides of the Atlantic," according to the GMF website, which also reported that the congressmen had toured the Mexican border. "The group returned to the conference site and continued to discuss demographics, immigration, and integration in Europe and the United States, and also on trade and economic issues related to borders." The total tab for all that conferring by the four congressmen: more than $10,000.
Later that month, Democrats Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii and James Clyburn of South Carolina arrived in San Diego to speak to the executive board of the Maritime Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. Each received $1200. In March, Michigan Democrat John Conyers got $787 from San Diego's Thomas Jefferson School of Law to speak at a conference entitled "Taking Reparations Seriously." Speakers discussed "slavery and reparations as well as other instances of mass injustice, and how these mass offenses relate to broader themes such as justice, causation, group responsibility, moral culpability, racism, and forgiveness," according to the program.