Irvine-based Fluor Corp., hoping for some of the expected billions of dollars in contracts to rebuild Kuwait, will pay to fly a dozen U.S. congressmen to the Middle East because Kuwait’s offer to pick up the air fare has been shot down.
The emirate, invaded by Iraq last Aug. 2 in an action that touched off the Persian Gulf War, was willing to fly the congressmen over to survey the damage and help facilitate U.S. companies coming in to repair the war damage.
But Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) asked the House Ethics Committee if the trip was proper. The committee told him that federal law bars congressmen from accepting gratuities from foreign governments.
American companies can and routinely do pay for trips by legislators, who then must report it on their conflict-of-interest statements. Fluor will have one of its own representatives aboard the jet it has chartered for the congressmen, who include Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach). The trip began Wednesday and lasts through Sunday.
The committee said the congressmen could repay Kuwait, but the round-trip cost is $6,000.
Those invited on the trip included government officials, private individuals and journalists. A complete list of the House members chosen was not immediately available.
Dornan was reported to be outraged by the cost and the difficulty in getting answers from the Middle East. He reportedly will fly on his own to London and then eastward.