The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

by Justin Elliott, ProPublica

 

Rep. Bill Owens, D-N.Y., said today that he will personally reimburse a Taiwan university for the $22,132 trip he took to the island with his wife in December.

The announcement comes after ProPublica co-published a story Thursday evening with Politico detailing how lobbyists for Taiwan from the New York firm Park Strategies invited Owens and organized the four-day trip. House rules passed after the Jack Abramoff scandal prohibit members from taking trips arranged by lobbyists.

“In an abundance of caution, and to avoid any question about the purpose of the travel, which was to bring jobs to New York, or about whether it was appropriate for the sponsor to pay for its costs, I am reimbursing the sponsor personally for the full value of the trip,” Owens said in a prepared statement.

Owens said he does not believe the trip, paid for by the Chinese Culture University, broke House rules:

We closely followed the (House) Ethics Committee’s process to seek advance approval for the trip, which we obtained. Because the sponsor, the Chinese Culture University, did not employ or retain lobbyists or foreign agents, and because no lobbyist or foreign agent was traveling with me or paying for the trip, we did not understand that our contacts with an agent for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office could affect the trip’s permissibility. We made every effort to comply with the standards of conduct and continue to believe that no rules were violated.

The ethics committee has not offered comment in response to calls and emails. As we reported Thursday, Owens mandatory pre-travel filings with the ethics committee did not mention the role of Park Strategies lobbyists organizing the trip.

House rules state: “Member and staff participation in officially-connected travel that is in any way planned, organized, requested, or arranged by a lobbyist is prohibited.”

Documents the firm filed with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act include emails and contact logs showing how firm founder Al D’Amato and vice presidents Sean King and John Zagame spent months organizing the trip with Owens staffers. The lobbyists are registered foreign agents for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Washington.

Matt Doheny, the Republican challenging Owens in a tight race to represent the newly drawn 21th district in northern New York, released a statement earlier Friday criticizing the trip.

“Bill Owens’ call to lobbyists — who are also, incidentally, campaign donors — to ‘super-size’ his trip is emblematic of everything that’s wrong in Washington,” Doheny spokesman Jude Seymour said in the statement. “We ask our members of Congress to represent our interests. Bill Owens would rather take a $22,000 trip to a foreign country with his wife than find ways to fix this ailing economy and get constituents back to work. We can do much better.”

The Upstate New York Tea Party also released a statement Friday calling on Owens to resign, according to the Albany Times-Union.

Neither TECRO nor Park Strategies immediately responded to requests for comment on Owens’ decision to reimburse the costs of the trip.

 

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Dr. Mehmet Oz

Sean Parnell, the Trump-anointed candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania, dropped out of the race a week ago after a custody hearing that featured lurid details of his relationship with his ex-wife. Laurie Snell alleged that Parnell had struck her, choked her, left her by the side of the road and hit one of their sons hard enough to leave a welt on the boy's back. Parnell countered that she had invented all of it.

Custody battles are infamous for exaggerated accusations and heated denials, and it's difficult for outsiders to know whom to believe and how much. But Parnell's comments off the witness stand didn't burnish his credibility. Appearing on Fox Nation, for example, Parnell opined, "I feel like the whole 'happy wife, happy life' nonsense has done nothing but raise one generation of woman tyrants after the next." He wasn't finished. "Now there's an entire generation of men that don't want to put up with the BS of a high-maintenance, narcissistic woman." Well. Someone seems to be dealing with anger issues. The would-be — er, rather, won't-be — senator concluded with a short sermon on biology: "From an evolutionary standpoint, it used to be, you know, women were attracted to your strength because you could defend them from dinosaurs." Where does the GOP find these geniuses?

Keep reading... Show less
x
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}