By JUSTIN ELLIOTT | Politco
Two days after Christmas last year, Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.) and his wife, Jane, boarded a first-class flight to Taiwan for a four-day tour of the island. Owens and his wife roomed at $500-a-night luxury hotels and enjoyed fine meals between meetings with Taiwanese officials and a day trip to Taipeiâ€™s famed National Palace Museum.
The Chinese Culture University in Taiwan had ostensibly invited the congressman and his wife â€œto promote international cultural exchange.â€ In fact, lobbyists for Taiwanâ€™s government had organized the trip. Congressional ethics rules prohibit members from participating in most trips arranged by lobbyists.
Although Owens filed a travel disclosure with the House Ethics Committee that identifies the tripâ€™s sponsor as the Culture University, email messages and other documents reviewed by ProPublica show that lobbyists from the New York firm Park Strategies, founded by former New York Sen. Al Dâ€™Amato, had invited Owens on the trip and spent four months organizing it.
A rule passed by Congress after the Jack Abramoff scandal states: â€œMember and staff participation in officially-connected travel that is in any way planned, organized, requested, or arranged by a lobbyist is prohibited.â€
Besides Dâ€™Amato, others involved in arranging the trip included two executives at his firm, John Zagame and Sean King, son of Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.). The Park Strategies lobbyists are registered foreign agents for the government of Taiwan.
To read more, visit: Â http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0512/76182.html
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