Bush officials schedule luxury trip in Russia Taxpayer-funded venture criticized by U.S. Embassy

December 17, 1992|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- After returning home from a visit to Chin and Hong Kong aboard a military jet, several Bush administration officials plan to tour Moscow and St. Petersburg at government expense -- several days before the inauguration of Bill Clinton forces them from office.

The American Embassy in Moscow has tried informally and unsuccessfully to discourage the trip, saying it is unnecessary, according to an official who is critical of the trip.

More planning has gone into the amenities for a luxury train trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg than into the actual agenda for the trip, which will have something to do with the conversion of Russian military factories to civilian production, the official says.

A Commerce Department official acknowledges that the department's top career experts on such matters have been excluded from the trip while political appointees from other agencies are being invited.

Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and other members of Congress are already criticizing the trip to China by Commerce Secretary Barbara H. Franklin, who flew there with senior aides on Tuesday aboard an Air Force C-137, a luxurious version of a Boeing 707 with office space and plush armchairs. Ms. Franklin is not planning to go to Moscow but some of her top aides who went on the China trip are.

Monthly spending for travel by senior Commerce Department officials has more than doubled since President Bush lost the election.

Because the federal government's current fiscal year runs through September, the current surge of spending may use up money that otherwise would have been available for the appointees of Mr. Clinton.

The trip to Russia is being planned for mid-January, says the Commerce Department official, speaking on behalf of Ms. Franklin and her aides on condition of anonymity.

He says it is a necessary and legitimate use of taxpayers' money, but says the U.S. Embassy has not decided whether the trip is a good idea.

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