Washington- Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones ranks seventh among U.S. representatives and senators in the number of trips taken since 2000 that were paid for by outside groups, according to a study of congressional travel compiled by PoliticalMoneyLine.
The Cleveland Democrat's 47 trips were the most any Ohio member of Congress took in that period. Private groups paid more than $75,000 for her to deliver speeches and learn about issues in destinations as exotic as Taiwan, Malaysia, Egypt and Antigua, and as familiar as Cleveland, Cincinnati and Dayton.
Members of Congress say such trips expose their legislative priorities to broad audiences and give valuable educational opportunities without billing taxpayers. But watchdog groups like the Congressional Accountability Project say privately funded trips let special interests buy influence with members of Congress.
"In general, these trips help provide members of Congress with a high-flying lifestyle that leaves the rest of America in the dust," said accountability project director Gary Ruskin, who said privately funded excursions should be banned.
Such trips are currently legal, though there are some restrictions.