To our new congressional reps: Welcome to the Land of Ooze

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Just in time for the new Congress, American RadioWorks has come up with a terrific documentary entitled “Imperial Washington”. Listening to it one wonders, “How come no one came up with this stuff a few years ago?”

Actually, part of the answer is explained in the documentary. For example, all those congressional junkets to posh resorts in Scotland, the south of France, Florida and elsewhere? Yes, the congressmen had to fill out forms about their travel, but they were all sequestered — the forms, not the congressmen, unfortunately — in some out-of-the-way basement, never put in a government database, and not readily made available to journalists.

The intrepid researchers from American RadioWorks went through the thousands of forms, put the info into a database and came up with some eye-opening conclusions. From the broadcast:

“What we ended up doing with lots of help was entering by hand the information on probably 28,000, almost 30,000 paper records into a database. So for the first time, we’d be able to answer basic questions about who was paying for the most congressional trips, who was taking the most congressional trips, where they were going and what they were doing while they were there, and what rose to the surface were a number of trips that have really played a major part in a lot of the congressional scandals that we’ve seen in the last two years. Prior to us creating this database, Tom Delay’s now infamous golf trip to Scotland had never been publicly reported. The same with Representative Ney’s trip and a number of others. And it really opened up, for the first time I think, access for not just us, but reporters across Washington and across the country to begin to look at a major way lobbyists and influence peddlers in Washington D.C. were plying their trade.”

The entire program, which covers congressional perks, the battle over control of the internet, the growth of lobbyist influence and more, can be heard here or read here. It can also be available for download after Jan. 15. Hopefully, the entire congressional travel database will be made available on the web sometime soon.

Want to know about our own Minnesota delegation’s penchant for travel? If so, go here.