Former House Majority Leader Tom Delay

Congress seems intent on getting its public approval rating even lower and destroying what little trust it has left. After hollowing out the reporting mechanism for disclosing insider trading by staffers for members of Congress, those guardians of the republic have decided to remove the rule that requires publicly disclosing privately funded trips.

The practice of allowing private interests to fund trips for members of Congress has a dubious history and often serves as a bribe. The most notorious example of which has to be Tom Delay’s trip to Scotland courtesy of private interests related to Jack Abramoff. Though even recent resignations from Congress have been due in part to information listed on travel disclosures.

And now Congress is fighting back – not against corruption, but against the public knowing about it.

It’s going to be a little more difficult to ferret out which members of Congress are lavished with all-expenses-paid trips around the world after the House has quietly stripped away the requirement that such privately sponsored travel be included on lawmakers’ annual financial-disclosure forms.

The move, made behind closed doors and without a public announcement by the House Ethics Committee, reverses more than three decades of precedent. Gifts of free travel to lawmakers have appeared on the yearly financial form dating back its creation in the late 1970s, after the Watergate scandal. National Journal uncovered the deleted disclosure requirement when analyzing the most recent batch of yearly filings.

I guess we can now call this the “most transparent Congress in American history.”

Even in a country where the public is used to having corruption rammed down its throat this triggers the gag reflex. The solution to corruption by Congress, according to Congress, is not to prevent corrupt behavior but to try and prevent you from knowing about it.

Photo by US Congress under public domain.