7 in Maryland's 10-member delegation to Congress took 13 foreign trips in year

January 21, 1994|By John B. O'Donnell | John B. O'Donnell,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Congressional recesses are prime time for foreign travel, and Marylanders in Congress have done their share during the two-month break that ends Tuesday.

At least four members of the state's 10-member congressional delegation have traveled abroad since Congress quit for the year at Thanksgiving, taking a total of five trips.

Those sojourns capped a year when only three members of the delegation resisted the temptation to go abroad. According to aides and records, the remaining seven have taken at least 13 foreign trips since the 103rd Congress convened last January. Six trips were financed by private interests while the government paid for seven of them.

Rep. Constance A. Morella, a Montgomery County Republican, has taken four overseas trips since January 1993, making her the state's most traveled member of Congress in the last year. Runner-up is Rep. Steny Hoyer, a Southern Maryland Democrat, who has taken three trips.

Congressional travel has been a key factor in some campaigns in recent years. In 1992, for example, Rep. Beverly B. Byron, a Western Maryland Democrat, became the first House incumbent to lose after her primary election opponent used a radio ad that mimicked the "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" format to hammer her for overseas travel.

And Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, an Eastern Shore Republican thrown by redistricting into a race against another incumbent in 1992, flayed Rep. Tom McMillen for his travel as he unseated the well-financed Democrat.

It is difficult to tell how much of a factor the anti-travel ads were in the Byron and McMillen defeats. But Mrs. Byron, who spent 14 years in the House, made it clear after the election that she considered the "slime" and "inaccuracies" of Del. Thomas Hattery's criticism of her travel a factor in his upset victory.

Jason Hatch of Public Citizen, a Ralph Nader organization that regularly reviews privately financed domestic and foreign travel by members of Congress, says adverse publicity has had a dampening effect on such trips. Its impact on the Maryland delegation's foreign travel is unclear.

Only one Marylander, Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, refused to disclose his overseas travel. Speaking through an aide, the Baltimore Democrat said a reporter would have to look up the information because he was afraid he might not recall it accurately. The aide said she was "almost positive" that he had taken only one foreign trip in the last year, a journey that is disclosed in public records.

Members of Congress must disclose annually travel that is financed by private interests, but reports on 1993 trips are not due until May. Congressional trips for which the federal government pays are reported periodically in House and Senate public records. But, as of Wednesday, available records covered only the first nine months of 1993.

Three House members -- Mr. Gilchrest and freshmen Albert R. Wynn of Prince George's County and Roscoe G. Bartlett of Western Maryland -- took no overseas trips, according to spokesmen. Mr. Bartlett was scheduled to go to Macedonia, Turkey and Greece in July with the Armed Services Committee, but the trip was canceled after a death in the trip leader's family.

According to public records and their offices, these are the trips Marylanders have taken since last January.

* Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, one trip: Aug. 14-20 to Germany and France, including Paris, to look into high-speed rail work in both nations. It was her eighth taxpayer-financed overseas trip in four years, the third to Germany.

* Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, two trips: Aug. 22-26, to Warsaw, Poland, paid for by the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit organization that sponsors seminars on public policy and promotes congressional leadership on foreign policy issues, for a conference on the former Soviet satellites of Eastern Europe; and Nov. 24-28 to Spain, paid for by New York University Foundation's King Juan Carlos I Center, for a conference on the Clinton administration, Congress and Europe. Mr. Sarbanes is a frequent traveler. Public records show that he has taken at least 14 other overseas trips, eight at government expense, since his term began in 1989.

* Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, one trip: April 29-May 3 to Mexico to look into conditions in Mexican factories, a trip she took with a group of female colleagues as part of their opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

* Rep. Cardin, one trip: to Finland and Estonia July 5-9 for a Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe parliamentary meeting in Helsinki, Finland, and Tallinn, Estonia.

* Rep. Hoyer, three trips: the July 5-9 Helsinki Commission meeting that Mr. Cardin also attended, an April 4-10 trip to Russia and Ukraine, and a trip from last Saturday until Tuesday to Copenhagen for a meeting of the heads of parliamentary delegations to the Helsinki Commission.

* Rep. Kweisi Mfume, one trip: Nov. 27-Dec. 1 to Kingston, Jamaica, to speak at a journalism banquet. The Press Association of Jamaica paid for the trip.

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