Faulkner: Free Trips for Lawmakers Is ‘Influence Peddling’
A recent investigation by WCVB-TV in Boston found that Massachusetts state lawmakers have taken hundreds of free trips over the past five years, paid for by private organizations and foreign governments.
According to the report, the legislators are able to get around state laws preventing them from accepting such expensive gifts by filing disclosure reports explaining how the trip "serves a legitimate public purpose."
Chip Faulkner of Citizens for Limited Taxation called in to WBSM's Barry Richard on Friday, and said although not technically illegal, there are questions about whether or not the practice is ethical.
"It's problematic, because this is influence peddling," Faulkner said. "They go on these trips, whether it is (paid for) by the insurance company, or the pharmaceutical, or agricultural, it doesn't matter. Obviously, these guys are giving them free trips, and then if any legislation comes up in the State House affecting their companies, they hope they're going to get the vote of this particular senator or state rep."
The report says State Representative Antonio Cabral of New Bedford took 11 free trips to Portugal and the Azores since 2012, and that Senator Michael Rodrigues of Westport has taken five free trips to Portugal and the Azores since 2015. It also states Senator Marc Pacheco of Taunton has taken the most trips of any Massachusetts lawmaker, taking 28 trips since 2014.
Faulkner points out that the report shows the lawmakers are flying to exotic locations, and staying in fine hotels.
"They never fly into Hoboken, New Jersey and stay in a Motel 6. You notice that?" he asked.
He also said it looks suspicious that Rep. Cabral is flying so often to Portugal and his homeland of the Azores.
"The fact is, he can go back on his own, and I'm sure he probably has," Faulkner said. "But to take trips paid for by somebody else, anytime something like that happens, you have to look at it with a jaundiced eye."
Faulkner told Richard that even passing legislation to make accepting such trips illegal wouldn't deter the practice.
"You could, but there's always loopholes and ways to get around stuff like this," he said. "The way you can repair all this, or prevent this, you've got to not elect about 30 of these guys. Unless you have 20 to 30 of these guys given the heave-ho, they're just sitting there safe and secure in their seat."