Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he believes Samoa News is intentionally trying to mislead the people of American Samoa for its own political purposes.
“On March 11, 2005, the Samoa News published an article entitled Faleomavaega’s Asia trip a possible ethics violation. While I have no problems with the text of the story, I do have a problem with the title. First and foremost, this title is misleading because it implies that I have violated the rules of the House and nothing could be further from the truth,” Faleomavaega said.
“As a matter of practice, I clear in writing every trip I ever take and this trip was no exception. To be specific, I wrote to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (Ethics) and requested permission to travel. I included with my letter a copy of the invitation I received from the U.S. Korea Exchange Council. The Committee reviewed my request and I received clearance in writing to travel.”
“I made this clear to Samoa News and therefore it is disappointing that Samoa News would print a header implying that I am in violation of any rules. Furthermore, eight (8) Members of Congress traveled to Asia, including Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Florida, Republican Congressman John Carter from Texas, Republican Congressman Ander Crenshaw from Florida, Democratic Congressman Mike Honda from California, Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott of Washington, and Democratic Congressman Earl Pomeroy from North Dakota.”
“With the exception of Tom DeLay, no Member who traveled to Asia is being investigated for ethics violations. And even Tom DeLay is not being investigated for his travel to Asia. He is being investigated for other reasons,” the Congressman said.
“Like other Members who traveled to Asia, I welcome public scrutiny. In fact, I am confident that as this matter is closely reviewed the public will find that every Member who traveled to Asia did so under the assumption that the trips met with the approval of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (Ethics). I am also sure that the public will come to understand that the Committee on Standards is in place, in part, to provide information and guidance to House Members and is responsible for administering the gift and financial disclosure requirements established by House rules.”
“If Members were misguided, then I am sure that the sponsoring organization and the Committee will work out their differences but as far as I am concerned this issue is between the Committee on Standards and the U.S. Korea Exchange Council. My record on the matter is clear. I acted in good-faith and pre-cleared my travel with the Committee on Standards and I also publicly disclosed my travel in accordance with House rules.”
“I am not being investigated for ethics violations and neither is Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, Congressman Carter, Congressman Crenshaw, Congressman Honda, Congressman McDermott or Congressman Pomeroy. Each of us abides by all standards and ethics of the House and, in the future, I am hopeful that Samoa News will refrain from publishing headlines which imply otherwise,” the Congressman concluded.
Samoa News article – March 11, 2005
Faleomavaega's Asian trip a possible ethics violation
by Fili Sagapolutele
Samoa News Correspondent
Washington D.C. based watch dog groups have called for the U.S. House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (also known as the Ethics Committee) to conduct an investigation into a trip by three U.S. congressmen, which included Congressman Faleomavaega.
The request is based on a February 2003 trip to Asia where Faleomavaega along with U.S. Reps. Earl Pomeroy and Tom Feeney visited South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan and spoke to leaders of the countries of other issues on their trip.
Faleomavaega said in a February 2003 statement that the trip was paid for in part by the Heritage Foundation, the Harbour Group and the U.S.-Korea Exchange Council.
The national media said yesterday that the trip was paid by the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council, a charity group registered as a foreign agent with offices in South Korea and Washington D.C.
House rules explicitly bar congressmen from traveling on the tab of foreign agents or domestic lobbyists, according to the Orlando Sentinel newspaper. It also requires that members file a disclosure form within 30 days when they travel on the tab of private groups.
The Washington Post newspaper said, rules of the U.S. House of Representatives on gifts and travel state that "a member, officer or employee may not accept travel expenses from 'a registered lobbyist or agent of a foreign principal'."
The Sentinel also said there was no record of Rep. Feeney's Asia trip with the House Legislative Research Center, as of yesterday. Feeney is also under question regarding a Europe trip paid by a lobbyist, along with House Majority Leader Tom Delay on trips to Asia in 2001 funded by the U.S.-Korea Exchange Council.
Faleomavaega, a member of the House International Relations subcommittee on Asia and Pacific, listed the cost on his disclosure for the trip at $13,188 while Pomeroy listed his at $11,838.
Faleomavaega was at back-to-back committee hearings late yesterday morning in the House and was not immediately available for comments.
A spokesperson for his Washington office said, "We clear in writing every trip the Congressman ever takes and his trip to Asia was cleared in writing by Congress. We are probably one of the only offices on the Hill that has his clearance in writing."
Feeney received verbal approval of his trips, the national media reports.
During the Asia trip, Faleomavaega also met with over 40 solders from American Samoa serving on the border of South and North Korea, better known as the "demilitarized zone" (DMZ).
While in South Korea, he said there was a brief opportunity for him to meet with some Korean business leaders.
The Washington Post also reported that Faleomavaega and three other members of the House traveled to Seoul, South Korea from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2, 2003 and this trip was also paid for by the U.S.-Korea Exchange Council.
By late yesterday afternoon (close to 10pm Eastern time), Faleomavaega said from Washington, that as a matter of practice, he always clears his trips through the committee on standards, and trips to Asia in 2003 were all cleared by the committee.
At press time, the committee has yet to issue an official statement as names of other House members surfaced with their trips paid by either lobbyists or a registered foreign agent.
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