California's congressional delegation likes to travel--courtesy of private interests--to places ranging from Cleveland and Detroit to Budapest and Bangladesh, according to annual financial disclosure reports released Wednesday.
The reports portray a 52-member House delegation that includes at least 10 millionaires who own blue-chip stocks, valuable real estate and rare coins.
But there also are a few members, such as Rep. James E. Rogan (R-Glendale), who reported no significant assets or income outside of the $136,700-a-year congressional salary.
Congress members are required to report their assets and liabilities in broad ranges, which makes it difficult to determine their exact worth. Lawmakers must report each trip valued at more than $250 and paid for by outside groups.
A study by the Center for Responsive Politics last year found that corporations, trade groups and other outside interests spent $6.4 million in 1997 on trips for all members of Congress, their spouses and staffs.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) took the most trips of the delegation last year: 16, mostly to cities throughout the United States.
"That's what happens when you have a national voice and are on the cutting edge of issues," Waters said Wednesday when asked about the journeys.
Waters said that most of her trips are to deliver speeches to groups representing blacks, women and civil rights activists. Almost all, she said, are overnight visits in which she flies in to make a speech and then rushes out--not multi-day vacations. "This is work. I hate to do it, but I have a responsibility to do it."
Among the exotic places visited by California lawmakers were Bangladesh, where Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-San Diego) went on a fact-finding mission on anti-drug policy sponsored by the National Security Caucus Foundation, according to an aide.
Several California Congress members journeyed to Bermuda, Switzerland, Hungary or Hawaii, courtesy of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational organization. Trips were sponsored by a wide range of special interests.
Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Tracy) traveled to Reno for the annual convention of the Safari Club International, a hunters' group.
Rep. Bob Filner (D-San Diego) journeyed to San Francisco, courtesy of the Assn. of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Filner said that he spoke about efforts to include acupuncture in government health insurance.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) traveled to Frankfurt, Moscow and St. Petersburg at the invitation of the Traditional Values Coalition.
Freshman Reps. Gary G. Miller (R-Diamond Bar) and Doug Ose (R-West Sacramento) joined the delegation's millionaire club, the reports show.
Other millionaires, according to the reports, are Reps. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove), David Dreier (R-San Dimas), Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Walnut Creek), Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo), Wally Herger (R-Marysville), Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) and Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco). Several other members are close to being millionaires, if they are not already.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer filed reports last week showing that they and their husbands have assets in excess of a million dollars.
Because the reports can be as complicated as tax returns, members were still scrambling to file corrections late Wednesday. In fact, the delegation ended up with one less millionaire when Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) said that she mistakenly checked a box listing one asset worth more than $50 million. She is not a millionaire, an aide said.