Foreign Agent Financed Lawmakers' Trip, Data Show; Crenshaw, Ros-Lehtinen, DeLay among Those Visiting South Korea

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID DECAMP, The Times-Union

U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw of Jacksonville took a trip to South Korea paid by a registered foreign agent of the country, despite a House rule against it, new information shows.

Crenshaw, a Republican, accompanied House Majority Leader Tom DeLay for a three-day visit four years ago. Crenshaw's wife attended, as did Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from South Florida. The trip cost a little more than $100,000, and Crenshaw accounted for at least $27,640 of the cost, according to a Northwestern University database on congressional travel.

The Korean-United States Exchange Council, which promotes stronger relations between U.S. and South Korean groups, paid for the trip. It is a non-profit organization that registered as an agent of South Korea several days before the Aug. 26-28 junket in 2001, congressional officials said.

Crenshaw said Thursday he was unaware until just a few days ago the council registered. His office staff likely spoke with council officials to check out the group, but he didn't think his staff checked with House ethics officials about the trip.

"I think if you went in good faith and didn't have knowledge, I don't know you can be found to have done something wrong," Crenshaw said.

The council was reviewing whether it actually needed to be registered. In a statement, the group said Congress members were assured ethics standards were met and expressed regret "if we were in error."

The purpose was listed on a reporting document as educating members on the country and meeting with government officials. …