Over the years, Democratic congresswoman Susan Davis has traveled around the world many times and back on field trips paid for by the nonprofit Aspen Institute. Last year alone, she and husband Steve visited Barcelona, Spain ($14,199), and Vienna, Austria ($13,916), on the foundation’s dime. The pair also went to Tokyo courtesy of the Japan Center for International Exchange ($6379). Topics have included “Policy Challenges in the Muslim World” and “Nuclear Challenges for the U.S.: Coping with Change in the Global Nuclear Order.” And last month it was yet another Aspen Institute conference, “China’s Growth and Trade: Consequences for the U.S. Economy.” But unlike past Davis junkets, the entire tab came to a mere $420 for the couple’s “meal expenses.” And in a break with precedent, according to her March 1 disclosure filing, “Rep. Davis paid for her own lodging.”
That was because the four-day event, lasting from February 18 through 21, was held in Coronado, and Davis and her husband spent the nights at their historic house in Kensington. Nor did the institute pick up round-trip travel from and to Washington for Davis, as is usually the case. ”As a member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, I will be able to discuss economic and the jobs competitiveness and its impact on our economy and internationally,” Davis wrote on her application for permission to take the trip. The meetings, to which three GOP House members and 16 Democrats were invited, were held at the Hotel del Coronado, in keeping with Aspen’s traditional choice of ultra-high-end venues. But the reason given for the selection of the Del had nothing to do with the resort’s ocean views, sandy beach, pricey seafood, lively bars, or swimming pool: “The facility has specialized conference services required by our education forum, including required technological capacity, up-to-date telephone, Internet and mobile communications and a business center. In addition, facility security was another key factor, including private meeting and dining rooms.” Among other diversions, the group watched a video that featured former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and CNN’s Fareed Zakaria arguing against the premise that the 21st Century belongs to China.