Rick Flies The Friendly $kies

Rick Lazio, GOP, New York, U.S. Senate, Hillary Rodham Clinton
AP
Hillary Rodham Clinton's U.S. Senate opponent, Rep. Rick Lazio, led New York's frequent-flying congressmen in 1999, taking nine trips on someone else's tab.

Annual financial disclosure forms made public Thursday show that Lazio's way was paid by the Mortgage Bankers Association, the Sons of Italy and ABC News, among others. Among his destinations were Orlando, Fla., in January and Cape Cod, Mass., for the Fourth of July weekend.

Lazio took a "family member" along on seven of the nine trips.

[Mrs. Clinton has had her own airlplane problems. According to a GOP-controlled congressional subcommittee, she used government aircraft to make 14 strictly political flights to New York over a seven-month period in 1999. The Clinton campaign reimbursed the government for the flights, but the payments only covered a small portion of what it cost to operate the aircraft, the subcommittee said.]

On a whole, New York's 31 House members took even more trips in 1999 then they did the year before when 18 of them reported taking a combined 49 trips. This year, 24 New York lawmakers took 74 trips to destinations ranging from Quatar and St. Croix to Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Members of Congress are allowed to accept trips as long as they report them in annual disclosure statements and also in separate forms, which must be filed with the House within 45 days after the travel.

Lazio's camp did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Thursday.

Gary Ruskin, executive director of the Congressional Accountability Project, said some privately-funded travel was appropriate.

"But favor seekers with matters pending before Congress shouldn't be able to pay for congressional travel and members should reject trips that are paid for by those seeking favors," Ruskin said.

He called Lazio's trip to Charlotesville, Va., on the tab of the Mortgage Bankers Association "a good example of a trip that a member shouldn't take" because the group could have business before Lazio. The Suffolk County Republican is chairman of the Housing Subcommittee of the House Banking Committee.