Since Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell promised seven months ago to "substantially reduce" travel funded by outside sources, the agency has accepted $90,000-worth of free trips, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.
FCC spokesman David Fiske told the Center in February there would be no more industry-funded travel by commissioners and "decision makers" at a "high level."
While travel by the highest-level FCC employees has all but ceased, records obtained through a Freedom of Information request show there have been plenty of industry-funded trips taken by upper-level managers.
For example, the 2004 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this past January was attended by five FCC employees, including three deputy chiefs and the chief of the Policy and Rules Division in the Office of Engineering and Technology.
The trips totaled $6,355 and were funded by the Consumer Electronics Association, an industry trade group. But that was a dramatic decrease compared with the previous year when 27 FCC workers, including Powell and commissioners Kathleen Abernathy and Jonathan Adelstein, attended. Total cost to the association was $45,736.
In May 2003, the Center released a report chronicling how FCC officials had accepted nearly $2.8 million in travel and entertainment expenses over the past eight years, most of it from the telecommunications and broadcast industries the agency regulates.
Following the report's release, several unsuccessful attempts have been made in Congress to ban the practice.
On July 25, 2003, Virginia Republican Congressman Frank Wolf, chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the FCC's budget, wrote Powell asking his agency to stop accepting such travel.