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Kochvar's telecom junket

Some more digging on Brooks Kochvar turned up an additional lobbyist-funded trip, which I missed the first time because of a typo in the legislative trips database (he is listed as "Brooks Kochvas.") According to the American RadioWorks investigation, Kochvar took a trip to San Diego in April 2003 for a conference sponsored by SBC Telecommunications, with all expenses paid:

Destination: DEPART WASHINGTON, DC APRIL 22 AND RETURN APRIL 25 DESTINATION SAN DIEGO
Sponsor: SBC Communications Inc
Purpose: CONGRESSIONAL STAFF SEMINAR ON TELECOM INDUSTRY
Date: Apr 22, 2003 (3 days)
Expense: $1,684.90

Here's the original document in Kochvar's own handwriting (PDF.)

Interestingly enough, San Diego is the home turf of disgraced Congressman Duke Cunningham, for whom Kochvar previously worked. I can't find any evidence that Kochvar met Cunningham for some catch-up time while he was in San Diego, or that Cunningham was even in San Diego on those dates. I also can't find any indication that any of Duke Cunningham's staffers attended this SBC conference. Nevertheless, it is an interesting coincidence, because that April 2003 timeframe would put the trip smack dab in the middle of some of Cunningham's shady dealings:

Jan. 13, 2003: $3,000 and $30,000 checks deposited into his personal bank accounts in San Diego.

May 8, 2003: California registration of a 1999 GMC Suburban with altered title claiming he paid $18,000 instead of below-market price of $10,000.

May 14, 2003: $8,000 check he deposited into his personal credit union account in Washington, D.C.

June 20-22, 2003: $2,731.33 in checks to a resort for lodging and meals, $1,500 gift certificate used to purchase a set of earrings and $400 for a charm and necklace.

I can't find any specifics on the SBC Telecommunications conference, either, but the list of other congressional staffers who attended the conference contains some good clues. Some staffers disclosed the trip only as a "fact-finding mission" (very noble), "educational" in nature, or as just a "congressional staff seminar," without mentioning the telecom connection. However, some staffers were more explicit.

A staffer from ND Sen. Byron Dorgan's office described it as:

CONGRESSIONAL STAFF TRIP TO VISIT SBC FACILITIES IN CALIFORNIA. IT WILL BE INVOLVE SEMINARS AND DISCUSSIONS ON TELECOMMUNICATIONS POLICY

Other staffers' descriptions:

TO UNDERSTAND THE MARKETPLACE POST TRIENNICAL REVIEW
FURTHER EXAMINE FCC RULINGS IN REGARD TO TELECOMM INDUSTRY
CONGRESSIONAL STAFF TELECOMMUNICATIONS SEMINAR: TO LEARN AND DISCUSS THE 1996 TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT AND THE FCC'S RECENT DECISIONS, AND THEIR IMPACT ON REGIONAL BELL OPERATING COMPANIES, THEIR LONG-DISTANCE COMPETITORS, AND THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS INDUSTR

A look at Michele Bachmann's FEC filings shows several contributions from telecommunications industry PACs:

*$2,000 from AT&T's PAC
*$8,000 total from Verizon Wireless' PAC, the "Good Government Club"
*$500 from the U.S. Telecom Association PAC

There are probably more, and this doesn't count her contributions from individuals in these industries. Nor did I examine the filings of the "MN-06 Victory Committee."

Given these connections, we should be on the lookout for any attempt by Michele Bachmann's office to give handouts to SBC or the telecom industry.

Comments

Pat: I'm glad to see you're on the trail of Byron but if you're into this sort of investigating, I'd take a look at Michele Bachmann's junket to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2004 or 2005. I checked with the legislature and my recollection is that some other legislators reported expenses reimbursed for this conference. Not Bachmann. Unless Bachmann paid out of her own funds, which it is possible she did, this was paid for by industry. ALEC is a way industry has figured out to take legislators on trips and indoctrinate them on their issues. Bachmann went to indoctrinate others on the need for a constitutional amendment, however. I ordered a tape of her speaking with Tony Perkins of the Family Whatsit Council who moderated a session with a right wing Fla. congressman who argued the Defense of Marriage Act was enough. Anyway, if you are looking for ethical stuff about Byron here, don't forget about Michele Bachmann who may be cutting corners herself in the ethics department.

Sorry about the reference to "Byron". I meant "Brooks".

Jonerik,

Very interesting info. I will check it out as soon as I can.

Anyone else know anything about this?

I remembered some toehr details about the "American Legislative Exchange Council" or ALEC as it is sometimes called which I learned a couple years ago. The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board issued some opinions a few years ago about this group which was created by lobbyist principals in response to questions about whether these conferences and committees which they sponsored are covered by the gift from lobbyist rules. The board said they were because ALEC is essentially a lobbying entity. You can look up the opinions in the Board's on line data base of advisory opinions.

If you look up ALEC on the web, you will see that this lobbying group is not bipartisan at all but extremely right wing with a very right wing agenda. This conference a couple years ago, I think it was 2004, was also attended by other Minnesota legislators who filed disclosure reports, as I recall (it might have been reimbursement for the travel. Anyway, Bachmann never filed anything. unless she paid for her own meals and lodging at this affair, which one never does at conferences, expecially when one is an invited speaker, these wouold have been prohibited gifts from lobbyists.

Do you recall if Bachmann was speaking anywhere else around the country on this gay marriage thing?

Have a look at her bill sponsorship - there's some telco stuff there. I am unsure about the reach of that market sector into the Bachmann base, but I think you have spotted something.

I cannot see how those loose ends all tie up however, so good luck if you can.

Pat - I looked at the list you linked to.

Feb. 19. The long slushy DC winter with the short days and long darkness drags on and on -- Bingo, let's go to Palm Springs and tan.

Is it anything more than that? Probably, but what?

I looked at the list again, Brooks K went later, in the spring, so escaping the dog days of winter was a good theory applicable for the others.

Still, junketing to San Diego beats ten ways going back to the District - since April's not football season in South Bend. I'm guessing -- You found this one item later because of the misspelling of the last name?