U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston racked up higher bills for privately-funded trips than any other federal lawmaker last year.

Schakowsky’s trips cost $47,514 last year. And she’s also among the top congressional travelers over the long haul — sixth on a list going back to 2000, with a total cost of $269,097.

Members of Congress are required to seek ethics panel approval for such trips in advance. The data was compiled by the website

A Schakowsky spokeswoman, Sabrina Singh, defended the travel to the Daily Herald, saying the trips, many of them overseas, are important, especially for lawmakers who deal with foreign policy issues. Schakowsky sits on the House Intelligence Committee.

“These trips encourage bipartisanship and are filled with rigorous policy discussions, so that when members do come back to Washington, D.C., they can make informed decisions and informed votes,” Singh added.

Since the start of last year, Schakowsky has taken two privately-funded trips to Istanbul, Turkey, as well as separate trips to Belgium, Brazil and Israel.

Such travel, funded by private groups, has been criticized as a possible way for lobbyists to gain influence over lawmakers. But Singh said many of Schakowsky’s trips are funded by non-partisan groups with no lobbying agenda.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Why not experts?

    Why can't Congress appoint Experts to make the trips that are REALLY necessary ?

    At a maximum the House and Senate should have each have Democrates and Republicans have an expert.  Perhaps expert(s) are needed to foreign affairs and perhaps domestic expert(s).

    Since these would not be assumed to be 'the' expert in the field, they could/should be experts in 'getting the facts' and reporting back to Congress.  Certainly they would be better than Congressmen to make the analysis and getting the facts.  At present do Congressmen even report back to their Congressional body [all members, committees, etc.] ? I doubt it.

    Anyone reading the newspapers realized most of these trips are 'photo-ops', they take their spouse/children, many 'events' are in vacation spots i.e. why do Transportation conferences always seem to be in Hawaii ?, do the Congressmen who even go to 'hotspots' even speak the language, have more knowledge than 'experts' in those countries ?  Hardley.

    Not to pick on Caroline Kennedy but her appointment as Ambassador to Japan once again points out how political favors are handed out to contributors—do we need political ambassadors any more than Congressmen flying all over the world—and all at taxpayer money.

    Of course both the Executive and Congressional branches  fly all over [again at taxpayer expense–and with family !]  to make 'pollcy speeches' when we really can see  they are political and even campaign speeches/trips.

    Maybe if Congress and the Executives would stay in Washington and work instead of flying all over and taking 'breaks' of multiple weeks at a time, maybe they would get something done for a change !


    1. Well…

      I'm not justifying these trips one way or the other, but we do elect Congresspersons to study issues and vote accordingly.  An "expert" will simply come back with their own, albeit possibly valid, opinion.  By your reasoning, why even have Congresspersons go out into their own district and meet with constituents… they can have "experts" do it for them.

      1. My point as well

        That's my point as well. When the experts have made enough trips to formulate an informed opinion then they will be experienced enough to run for Congress. Then we are back to square one.

  2. $50K of travel

    Seems a tad much but I wonder what the total cost of all trips is, exclusive of commuting costs. And it is notable that three of the top 10 are from the pension-bankrupt state of Illinois.

  3. They don’t even read the bills/mail they get

    Why would we expect that they would learn something on their trips when they admit they don't even read the bills they vote on.  As Pelosi said about health care "we'll pass it and then find out what's in it."

    Apparently they don't even have their staffs read the bills given the problems we find out about later and they admit they did not read and thus did not catch problems.  I'm sure real experts if given the bills to read and sign-off on would catch the problems.  Congress only haggles over trade-offs for their vote.

    Congress passed Sarbanes-Oxley that requires CEOs to state they have read their financials and agree with them. Should Congress not be held to a standard of having to have read—an apporve/disapprove—before they vote. If they vote and did not read [and agree if vote Yes, No if don't] should they not be held legally as liable as CEOs for this failure?

    Look how  much trouble we get into by bad legislation—revisions, fights, more laws to cover what get screwed up.  First  let Congress know/agree on what they vote on, then maybe we will have more confidence when they say they need to fly to Iraq or even more so to Hawaii for a conference on world peace or transportation techniques—-and take their family, golf clubs, and sun screen to last for eight hours a day for the length of the 'fact finding' trip.



  4. Curmudgeon, give it a rest.

    Curmudgeon, give it a rest. There were no questions asked about the travels of past presidents, because that was expected of them. If we call ourselves the leader of the free world, there will be travel. Suddenly there is all this criticism of this presidents travels. Apply your concerns retroactively to past leaders and then determine if the present one is out of line. As for the Congresswoman and her travels. It is clear that the story was written in such a way as to elicit a negative response, and went as far as to suggest that there could be influence peddling involved. Let us not forget that Foreign policy is just what it implies, stuff that happens in other countries.

  5. Jan needs these trips

     Three reasons Jan needs these free trips.
    1) I guess Jan deals with foreign policy and, Lord knows, our foreign policy over the last 4 years is as bad as it has ever been. If you know nothing about foreign policy, you needs to take those trips. Maybe there is a chance she can help Kerry and Obama get it right.
    2) Jan works hard at her job and it has made her a little unbalanced. Everybody who has met her can see this. She is entitled to the rest and relaxation she gets on those trips.
    3) Jan sits on the House Intelligence Committee. Even though this sounds like an oxymoron, she needs as many trips (paid by the taxpayers) as she can get. Without these getaways, we can never expect her to learn her job.   

    1. Reading comprehension

      OneSmartGuy wrote:

      "3) Jan sits on the House Intelligence Committee. Even though this sounds like an oxymoron, she needs as many trips (paid by the taxpayers) as she can get. Without these getaways, we can never expect her to learn her job."

      Did you read the article?

      "U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston racked up higher bills for privately-funded trips than any other federal lawmaker last year."

      Privately-funded.  That means not paid by the taxpayers.

      Sure, you can question the ethics of privately-funded trips, whether they are necessary, and who is funding them.  But they aren't "paid by the taxpayers".  

      But we can't let facts get in the way of right-wing hysteria.

      1. Reading comprehension part deux

        Schakowsky didn't pay for those privately funded trips. Lobbyists did.

        The point of the story is liberal Democrat Schakowsky is in the pocket of and heavily influenced by lobbyists not voters.

        But we can't let facts get in the way of liberal left wing hysteria. Can we?

      2. You are correct

        Some of Jan’s trips are taxpayer funded and some are not. This is true for almost all politicians. I believe that all should be required to write summary of their taxpayer funded trips and report it to the people in their districts.


        As far as the privately funded vacations, they should be taxable for all politicians. If Jan did this, she could probably avoid the risk of criminal tax fraud charges similar to the ones she had a few years ago.

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