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Various Authors 1:03 p.m., Oct. 24
In the game of musical chairs that is San Diego politics, many political insiders expect Congresswoman Susan Davis to retire sooner or later, making way for her one-time staffer, city councilman Todd Gloria.
But while Gloria basks in newfound publicity and position, thanks to the ill fortune of his longtime nemesis and fellow Democrat Bob Filner, Davis appears to still have at least a few more free trips left to go.
As reported here a year ago, the Democrat from Kensington is one of Capitol Hill's most frequent gratis travelers, thanks to the generosity of various non-profit think tanks supported by an array of foundations and corporate special interests.
Davis is number 17 on the list of the House and Senate's biggest-spending free travelers, running up a total tab of $200,652 on 28 trips taken courtesy of private sponsors.
That's according to data provided by Legistorm.com, a Washington-based website that collects and tabulates sponsored travel and expense reports submitted by members of Congress and their staff, as required under House and Senate rules.
The Legistorm information covers filings over the period from January 2000 though yesterday; Davis took office in 2001.
Davis's latest free junket with her husband, physician Steve Davis, was last month to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, according to a recently filed disclosure statement.
From August 10 through 19 the couple tripped through the African nation, thanks to funds from the Aspen Institute Congressional Program, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Total transportation cost $10,826 and lodging was reported to be $1404, with meals and drinks rounding out the excursion at $800 and visas costing $220.
After arriving in style on Ethiopia Airlines, Davis and her husband spent their own money on food and lodging for three nights before joining the tour with other House members on August 14, the disclosure says.
According to a handwritten statement attributed to Davis on the August 28 disclosure form posted online by Legistorm.com, the trip was necessary because, "As a member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, it is important to learn country's (sic) such as Africa's emergence education programs as it benefits to the American's educational system."
Presenters included U.S. General David Rodriguez on topics including "What are the United States' strategic interests in Africa?"
Dinner with Malawi president Joyce Banda was also on the agenda, as was a bit of trash talking about China and other U.S. competitors in the region:
Press reports and other analysis point to the growing interest of China, Guff States, and other countries in Africa's varied resources.
In some instances this manifests itself in so-called "land grabs" in which foreign entities seek to purchase or rent on a long-term basis vast tracks of land (and its water resources) for agricultural production to be exported back to the investing country.
Such arrangements are believed to include minimal benefits to citizens of the hosting country and are vulnerable to corrupt practices.