Missouri's members of Congress show travel expenses in reports

Saturday, June 15, 2002

WASHINGTON -- More than half of Missouri's delegation to Congress traveled on the dime of private interests last year, to countries as far away as Israel, France and Italy, and as nearby as Cuba.

The rest stayed home, with Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., reporting no expenses-paid trips for the fifth year running. Also reporting no trips were Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan and Republican Reps. Todd Akin and Sam Graves.

Trips that cost more than $260 are included in financial disclosure forms released Friday by lawmakers.

One frequent flyer was Rep. Karen McCarthy, a Kansas City Democrat. She traveled to Grand Cayman Island, Paris and Florence, Italy, courtesy of the Aspen Institute think tank, to attend conferences on U.S. policy toward Cuba and U.S. national security.

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, a Republican from southeast Missouri, saw firsthand the impact of U.S. policy toward Cuba, traveling with the USA Rice Council to Havana in January 2001. She is an outspoken advocate of lifting trade embargoes on the communist nation, and the group's visit included dinner with Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Rep. William Lacy Clay, a St. Louis Democrat, also was on the trip but did not report it on his form. Members sometimes pay their own expenses, but a spokesman for Clay could not immediately be reached.

Israel was the destination for Rep. Roy Blunt, a Springfield Republican, who took his son, Missouri Secretary of State Matt Blunt, with him on a trip hosted by the American Israel Education Foundation.

Gephardt's journeys

Other trips by members included Rep. Dick Gephardt's trip to White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., courtesy of the Aspen Institute, which also paid Mrs. Emerson's way to the same destination and sent Rep. Kenny Hulshof to Greenbrier, W. Va.

Grand Lodge of Missouri in Chesterfield, Mo., paid for Rep. Ike Skelton, a Democrat from central and western Missouri to travel from Washington to St. Louis.

In general, the lawmakers appeared to be living comfortably. Senators and House members made salaries of $145,100, except for Gephardt, whose pay as House Minority Leader is $161,200.

Retirement accounts make up a good portion of the assets on lawmakers' forms. Bond gets $4,337 per month from a state retirement fund from his years as governor, auditor and assistant attorney general. Skelton listed retirement income from his six years in the Missouri state Senate at $7,272.

Other benefits from the state of Missouri include Mrs. Carnahan's survivor benefits from the Missouri Elected Officials Retirement System, which were $57,393 last year. Her husband, the late Gov. Mel Carnahan, died in a plane crash on Oct. 16, 2000, while traveling from St. Louis to a campaign event in southeast Missouri.

Voters chose him as U.S. senator after his death, knowing Mrs. Carnahan would serve in his place. She is running for election in November to finish out the term.

Mrs. Carnahan also is receiving $599.96 per week from the state workers' compensation program. Payments began in January and will be covered on next year's form.

Other assets include property such as farmland -- although lawmakers are not required to report the value of their own homes.

Graves, a freshman Republican from northwest Missouri, has two farms, one with 240 acres and the other with 115 acres, worth $250,001-$500,000.

Blunt, a dairy farmer, owns 10 acres of farmland in Strafford, Mo., worth $15,000-$50,000.

And Bond has six acres of chestnut trees on farmland in Mexico, Mo., worth $1,001-$15,000. He began planting the trees several years ago but only last year began reporting his grove as an asset.

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