From One Branch to Another

If members of Congress can't take lobbyist funded trips, argues the Orlando Sentinel, then neither should members of the Executive Branch and President Bush should sign an executive order banning the practice before his branch of government has a Jack Abramoff all their own.

Part of the big lobbying overhaul package that Congress has sent to Bush's desk involves a ban on all trips funded by lobbyists and their clients. It's meant to ward off influence-peddling junkets like Abramoff's lavish Scotland golfing trip. But congressmen aren't the only ones traveling on someone else's dime -- the editorial notes a number of government officials took trips financed by people looking to win favor with their respective departments.

While guidelines are in place to warn off obvious conflicts of interest, the paper argues that the President needs to take the next step, follow Congress' lead and ban the travel all together:

 

Freebies for executive-branch officials are more insidious in at least one respect; bureaucrats, unlike members of Congress, aren't accountable to voters.

Agency officials have portrayed business- or lobbyist-funded trips as saving taxpayers money. But if a trip and the influence it affords results in a policy that serves a special interest instead of the public interest, taxpayers end up the big losers. If the agency is supposed to be protecting public health and safety, the losses could go well beyond tax dollars.

Instead of waiting for a scandal, Mr. Bush -- or Congress -- needs to crack down now on abuses in executive-branch travel.