Ethics Committee Issues New Disclosure Forms for Privately Sponsored Trips

Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:05pm

The House Ethics Committee has released the revised forms that members and staffers will have to submit before and after taking trips financed by private entities.

The forms reflect revisions the committee made to its regulations for privately funded travel in December in an effort to collect more targeted information about lobbyist-influenced travel. The new forms, released last week, must be used when seeking pre-approval or filing post-travel disclosures for trips leaving on or after April 1.

A Primary Trip Sponsor Form replaces the Private Sponsor Travel Certification Form. It asks for additional information about funds that groups have accepted directly and indirectly that are being used to finance congressional travel and must reach the committee at least 30 days before the start of the trip. It also asks for additional information about the mode of transportation that will be used. “If travel will be first class or by chartered or private aircraft, explain why such travel is warranted,” the form states.

“Members and staff participating in privately-sponsored, officially-connected travel may not accept travel on a non-commercial, private, or chartered flight unless exceptional circumstances are demonstrated in writing by the private sponsor,” the House Ethics Manual states.

Sponsors must also provide to travelers a post-travel disclosure form within 10 days of their return.

There is now an additional Non-Grantmaking Trip Sponsor Form that must be filled out by a “private individual or entity that provide funds, services, or in-kind donations to another entity to underwrite, in whole or part, a trip or an event, meal or activity that will occur during a trip.” That form asks if the organization employs lobbyists and whether they were involved in trip planning. A Grantmaking Trip Sponsor Form must be filled out by a public charity or private foundation doing the same.

Members and House staffers must file a Traveler Form with the committee at least 30 days before the scheduled departure date. It continues to ask about the trip sponsor, destination, accompanying relative and whether the sponsor employs domestic or foreign lobbyists. It asks the traveler to attach the proposed itinerary, invitee list and forms filled out by sponsoring entities. Another form must be filed by the traveler within 15 days of their return.

“The Committee Web site contains a travel calculator … to help travelers identify the due dates for their pre-and post-travel submissions,” the committee’s guidance on the new rules notes.