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Carol Stream

Roskam ethics review about 2011 Taiwan trip extended

The House Ethics Committee announced Sept. 11 that it would extend its review of a trip to Taiwan taken by U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) and his wife for another 45 days.

The Ethics Committee said in a statement that it will continue to review the matter "in order to gather additional information."

The $25,653 trip took place from Oct. 15 to Oct. 22, 2011. Roskam, who is from Wheaton, and his wife, Elizabeth, went to Taiwan with the approval of the Ethics Committee as part of the representative's work on the Ways and Means Committee.

The fact-finding trip came to the attention of the Ethics Committee after an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent nonpartisan entity that reviews allegations of misconduct in the House.

The Office's 135-page report alleged that the Chinese Cultural University in Taiwan, the supposed sponsor of the trip, was not, in fact, its organizer. Instead, "the trip appears to have been organized and conducted by the government of Taiwan, with little to no involvement by the University," the report said.

The only direct contact Roskam's office had with the university before, during or after the eight day trip, the report said, was a written invitation and a three-hour visit to the college that included a campus tour and a meeting with the university's president.

According to House Travel Guidelines and Regulations, "expenses may only be accepted from an entity or entities that have a significant role in organizing and conducting a trip.”

The Office of Congressional Ethics says that the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) was the main organizer of the trip, making it – a governmental agency – the trip's obligated funder. Usually, having a foreign government pay for such a trip is not an ethical breach. But ethics rules forbid governments pay for the travel of spouses or family members.

While Roskam Communications Director Stephanie Kittredge acknowledged that TESCO was the main point of contact for the trip, she said that the House Ethics Committee knew about TECRO's involvement before approving the visit.

"The main point is that in the OCE report, there is nothing in there that alleges or points to something that they came across that we didn’t previously disclose to HEC before we took the trip," Kittredge said.

According to Kittredge, TECRO is the de-facto embassy for Taiwan in the United States, as well as the primary point of contact for U.S. citizens traveling to the country. Roskam's office disclosed all its information to both the House Ethics Committee and the Office of Congressional Ethics and released the report that the Office previously approved on July 26, she said.

Kittredge said that Roskam's office was hopeful the case would be resolved soon and didn't believe there had been any wrongdoing.

"There are no rules that bar TECRO from being involved," she said. "From our standpoint, the OCE is misreading or does not understand the travel rules because they do not bar an organization like TECRO from being involved in organizing or conducting a trip without diminishing the role of the sponsor."

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