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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 Legistorm.com.

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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