NW lawmakers defend taxpayer-funded trip to Galapagos

PORTLAND, Ore. — Two Northwest lawmakers are defending a trip to the Galapagos Islands after the television news show “Inside Edition” called it “the trip of a lifetime on your dime.”

Democratic Reps. Brian Baird of Washington and Darlene Hooley of Oregon went to the islands in June with three other members of Congress to learn about climate change, ocean acidification, El Nino, maritime reserves protection and research funded by the National Science Foundation.

“If this was a luxury trip,” Hooley said, “I would eat my hat.”

According to an “Inside Edition” press release, the delegation took a military jet to the islands. The show also said the representatives stayed at an expensive island resort and were “treated like royalty.”

A show producer and correspondent posed as tourists to report on the trip.

“Hidden cameras also captured them taking full advantage of this exotic locale, enjoying fine wine and sushi dinners, bicycling, shopping and picture taking,” the release said.

Baird, who led the delegation, and Hooley said there were few other lodging options on the islands and they were treated like any other guests.

Hooley said they woke up at 6 a.m. each day to go to work.

Hooley’s term ends in January. She decided to go on the trip, she said, because she wants to contribute through her final days in Congress.

Since the trip, she said, she has helped put together legislation on global warming.

The other representatives on the trip were Republicans Frank Lucas of Oklahoma and Bob Inglis of South Carolina and Democrat Ben Chandler of Kentucky.

The delegation also included Hooley’s daughter and Baird’s wife, according to “Inside Edition.”

But Hooley and Baird said that, except for a military plane flight, they paid for their family members’ travels.

They said the trip was more educational than the show portrayed.

“We enjoyed the trip, certainly,” Baird said, “but it had a legitimate educational and scientific function.”

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