Loopholes allowed lawmakers to spend extra days in Vegas

Loopholes allowed a dozen members of Congress and staff members to skirt an ethics rule and spend extra days in Las Vegas last month courtesy of the Consumer Electronics Association, Roll Call reported today.

The travelers coupled allowable one-day paid business travel to the Consumer Electronics Show with exemptions that allowed them to extend their stays by paying their own hotel rooms. By doing so, they could "still accept round trip airfare and other expenses from the association."

The arrangement is within the rules, Roll Call said. But good-government watchdogs were fuming that a 2007 tightening of ethics regulations was supposed to eliminate the practice.

“The point is to make sure these trips are business-related and do not turn into vacation junkets,” Craig Holman of Public Citizen told the newspaper. “By combining these two, it turns what should be a quick business trip into a junket. This is exactly what we wanted to stop.”

At least 51 lawmakers and staffers attended the show on the dime of the Consumer Electronics Association, which paid more than $74,000 for airfare, hotels and other expenses, according to travel records compiled by the LegiStorm database service and reported by Roll Call.

Of those who attended "about a dozen took the additional travel allowance and also requested days at their own expense," the news organization said.