MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Fox News' Brit Hume both accused Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) of going on a trip to Puerto Rico they claimed was funded by lobbyists, thereby flouting the same ethics rule that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) has been accused of violating. Scarborough also criticized House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) for participating in the same trip. But the April 20 Washington Times article that both Hume and Scarborough cited as the basis for their allegations provides strong evidence that lobbyists did not in fact pay for the 2001 trip to Puerto Rico.
Notwithstanding the The Washington Times' misleading headline, “Lobbyist paid for Jones' '01 trip,” the article itself suggests the contrary. The article noted that a Jones spokeswoman stated that the listing of the lobbying firm Smith Dawson & Andrews on disclosure forms was the result of “human error.” The spokeswoman added that the advocacy organization Todo Puerto Rico con Vieques (TPRV) sponsored the trip and hired Smith Dawson to handle logistics. That claim is supported by James P. Smith, a managing partner at Smith Dawson & Andrews; according to the Times, Smith “denied that his firm paid for Mrs. Jones' travel. He offered to place his hand on the Bible.” Furthermore, the Times noted that other House members who attended the trip, including Pelosi, listed TPRV -- not Smith Dawson -- as the trip's sponsor. Unlike lobbying firms, “private groups, such as Todo Puerto Rico con Vieques ... are allowed to fund trips,” the Times noted.
On the April 20 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, host and former Republican congressman Scarborough accused Jones of doing “the same thing” DeLay is accused of doing:
SCARBOROUGH: You know, [Newsweek chief political correspondent] Howard [Fineman], Tom DeLay is obviously under attacks over allegations that a lobbyist paid for some overseas trips, a violation of ethics rules. But guess what? The Washington Times is reporting this morning that Representative Stephanie Tubbs [sic], who is obviously a leading critic of DeLay, did the same thing. She racked up a tab of over $3,000 for a trip to Puerto Rico paid by a lobbyist. And guess who else was there? Minority Leader Pelosi, whose representative said that it was -- quote -- “entirely proper.” And Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee was also on the same trip. She didn't even bother to disclose it. When asked, her rep said: I am not even sure why this is relevant.
Fox News Washington managing editor Hume made a similar claim on the April 20 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume:
HUME: Ohio Democrat Stephanie Tubbs Jones who sits on the House Ethics Committee took the very kind of trip that Democrats are attacking House Majority Leader Tom DeLay for allegedly taking, this according to her own documents. Jones was part of what she says was a legitimate congressional delegation to Puerto Rico in 2001.
But travel and financial disclosure forms signed by Jones herself say a Washington lobbying firm paid for the trip in violation of House rules. A spokesman for Jones tells The Washington Times, however, that it is the documents, not the trip, that were a mistake. Jones, however, declined to provide any evidence to support that claim.
Roll Call also repeated the accusation about Jones' travel in an April 21 article:
Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) may also have violated House rules by taking a 2001 trip to Puerto Rico that appears to have been sponsored by a lobbying firm, The Washington Times reported Wednesday.