‘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

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Ariel Garcia, 4, was last seen Wednesday morning in an apartment in the 4800 block of Vesper Dr. (Photo provided by Everett Police)
How to donate to the family of Ariel Garcia

Everett police believe the boy’s mother, Janet Garcia, stabbed him repeatedly and left his body in Pierce County.

A ribbon is cut during the Orange Line kick off event at the Lynnwood Transit Center on Saturday, March 30, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
‘A huge year for transit’: Swift Orange Line begins in Lynnwood

Elected officials, community members celebrate Snohomish County’s newest bus rapid transit line.

Bethany Teed, a certified peer counselor with Sunrise Services and experienced hairstylist, cuts the hair of Eli LeFevre during a resource fair at the Carnegie Resource Center on Wednesday, March 6, 2024, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Carnegie center is a one-stop shop for housing, work, health — and hope

The resource center in downtown Everett connects people to more than 50 social service programs.

Everett mall renderings from Brixton Capital. (Photo provided by the City of Everett)
Topgolf at the Everett Mall? Mayor’s hint still unconfirmed

After Cassie Franklin’s annual address, rumors circled about what “top” entertainment tenant could be landing at Everett Mall.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Stanwood in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Stanwood man gets federal prison for selling fentanyl on dark web

In 2013, Christerfer Frick was sentenced to nine years for trafficking drugs. He began selling online upon his release in 2020.

Molbak's Garden + Home in Woodinville, Washington closed on Jan. 28 2024. (Photo courtesy of Molbak's)
Molbak’s, former Woodinville garden store, hopes for a comeback

Molbak’s wants to create a “hub” for retailers and community groups at its former Woodinville store. But first it must raise $2.5 million.

A fire at a home near Alderwood Mall sent one neighbor and one firefighter to the hospital. (Photo provided by South County Fire)
Officials: Residents returned to burning Lynnwood home to rescue dogs

Five people and six dogs were displaced in the Thursday afternoon house fire, according to South County Fire.

Featuring a pink blush over a yellow background, WA 64 combines qualities of Honeycrisp and Cripps Pink (aka Pink Lady) for a firm, crisp, sweet and tart bite. A naming contest for the new apple runs through May 5, 2024. (Photo provided by Washington State University)
Hey Honeycrisp, this new breed of apple needs a name

Enter a naming contest for WA 64, a hybrid apple with the same baby daddy as Cosmic Crisp.

Police respond to a wrong way crash Thursday night on Highway 525 in Lynnwood after a police chase. (Photo provided by Washington State Department of Transportation)
Lynnwood woman, 83, killed in wrong-way crash following police pursuit

Deputies said they were chasing a man, 37, south on Highway 525 when he swerved into northbound lanes, killing an oncoming driver.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

People walk along the waterfront in front of South Fork Bakery at the Port of Everett on Thursday, April 11, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Port of Everett inks deal with longtime Bothell restaurant

The port will break ground on two new buildings this summer. Slated for completion next year, Alexa’s Cafe will open in one of them.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.