‘Fact-finding trip’ questioned

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, arranged for an unusual government-paid trip to Frankfurt and Bonn this week to investigate the German postal system. He is also visiting his wife, who is receiving medical care in Frankfurt, according to the congressman’s aides.

While lawmakers travel frequently abroad during the congressional recess, it is rare for a single member to conduct an official fact-finding tour abroad, as Burton is doing. Usually, members travel in larger groups and bring aides along in tours that examine a particular issue or focus on forging ties with foreign leaders.

In Burton’s case, congressional sources said, the State Department information sessions for the congressman were put together late last week, and his initial briefing in Frankfurt on Tuesday included no written agenda or formal briefing papers. One source said preparations for these briefings were made with the understanding that they were "only a decoy and that the actual purpose of the trip was for the congressman to visit his wife."

Burton aides disputed that assertion. Kevin Binger, staff director for the Government Reform Committee, said the committee is considering legislation authored by Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y., that would give the U.S. Postal Service greater flexibility in setting its rates.

"Postal reform legislation is one of our top priorities during this Congress," Binger said, adding that the German postal system, known as Deutsche Post, went through "a similar transition" as the service was privatized over the past few years. "They learned a lot of lessons along the way. We should try to benefit from their knowledge and experience."

But details of the trip drew protests from a public watchdog groups. "It sounds like Dan Burton is a deficit hawk that doesn’t walk the talk," said Gary Ruskin, director of the Congressional Accountability Project. "The federal government is not a junket service."

A spokesman for the American consulate in Frankfurt, Gerhard Wiesinger, said he could not release details concerning the congressman’s visit beyond confirming "he is here in the Frankfurt area on an official trip."

Burton flew Monday to Belgium on an Air Force plane with a House Intelligence Committee delegation led by Rep. Nancy, D-Calif. Burton then flew alone to Frankfurt, according to his office, which did not disclose whether it was a commercial or military flight. Barbara Burton is undergoing experimental cancer treatment at an undisclosed facility there.

Binger said Burton was briefed at the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt by Embassy staff as well as officials from the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI, and spent Thursday and Friday with officials from Deutsche Post. The congressman also met with a group of German businessmen Wednesday and will meet with U.S. Chamber of Commerce officials for lunch Monday.

Burton’s office did not release cost estimates for his trip, and lawmakers do not have to report them publicly until 30 days after the quarter in which they occurred. Operating an Air Force flight accounts for most of the cost, since this amounts to several thousand dollars per hour of flight time.

Lawmakers also receive a per diem, set by the State Department, while they are traveling for work overseas. Burton is receiving a per diem for meals during the trip, according to an aide, and this amounts to $62 per day in Frankfurt and $67 a day in Bonn.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Arif Ghouseat flips through his work binder in his office conference room Paine Field on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Paine Field Airport director departing for Sea-Tac job

Arif Ghouse, who oversaw the launch of commercial air travel at Paine Field, is leaving after eight years.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of education.
Public school enrollment still down, even as rural districts grow

Smaller districts in Snohomish County seem to be recovering more quickly — and gaining students — than their urban counterparts.

Josiah Degenstein
Lake Stevens man with alleged white supremacist ties faces gun charges

Storage units belonging to Josiah Degenstein contained multiple arsenals, according to police.

Maricel Samaniego, center, teaches English to Liedith Espana, left, and Nemecio Rios, right, at Liberty Elementary School in Marysville, Washington, on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. Marysville schools partner with Everett Community College to offer free English classes to parents of multilingual students. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Free English class helps Marysville parents lower language barrier

The school district partners with EvCC to teach practical classes on pronunciation, paperwork and parent-teacher conferences.

Firefighters works through rescue drills during the Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue’s annual Water Rescue Academy on the Skykomish River Thursday afternoon in Index, Washington on May 5, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Snohomish Regional Fire asks voters for two more commissioners

The district currently has seven commissioners, but it can keep only five. A Feb. 14 special election could change that.

Photo by David Welton
A federal grant will help pay for the cost of adding a charging station to the Clinton ferry terminal.
Federal money to help electrify Clinton ferry dock

The Federal Transit Administration awarded state ferries a $4.9 million grant to help electrify the Mukilteo-Clinton route.

News logo for use with stories about coronavirus COVID-19 COVID
5 things to watch in Snohomish County as COVID public emergency ends

Snohomish County health care leaders shared what they’re concerned about when the federal emergency expires May 11.

Angelica Montanari and daughter Makena, 1, outside of the Community Health Center of Snohomish County Everett-Central Clinic on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Amid patient woes, CHC of Snohomish County staffers push for a union

Doctors and nurse practitioners are worried about providers being shut out from clinical decisions, which hurts patient care.

Students make their way after school at Edmonds-Woodway High School on March 12, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
After Edmonds schools internet outage, staff ‘teaching like it’s the 1900s’

“Suspicious activities” on the district’s network delayed classes and caused schedule havoc. “Kids are using pencil and paper again.”

Most Read