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DeLay's S. Korea Trip Called into Question
By Mike Allen and R. Jeffrey Smith

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay
WASHINGTON — A delegation of Republican House members including Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas accepted an expense-paid trip to South Korea in 2001 from a registered foreign agent despite House rules that bar the acceptance of travel expenses from foreign agents, according to government documents and travel reports filed by the House members.

Justice Department documents show that the Korea-U.S. Exchange Group registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act on Aug. 22, 2001. DeLay, his wife, Christine, and two other Republican lawmakers departed on a trip financed by the group on Aug. 25 of that year.

An aide to DeLay said he was unaware until this week that the exchange group had declared itself a foreign agent.

The group, which in late 2003 also hosted three congressmen, spent at least $106,921 to finance the three-day trip from Washington to Seoul by the Republicans, which DeLay and accompanying staff members described at the time as having an "educational" purpose.

Jan Baran, a former general counsel for the Republican National Committee, said that while he was uncertain whether this trip violated the rules, "it's a problem" likely to trigger an investigation by the House ethics committee. DeLay was admonished three times last year by the ethics committee for rules infringements.

DeLay was accompanied to Seoul by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Ander Crenshaw, both Florida Republicans.

A spokesman for Ros-Lehtinen, Alex Cruz, said she did not know the group had registered as a foreign agent.

A spokesman for Crenshaw, Kenneth Lundberg, said, "When the trip was brought, we did an internal vetting of it, and that revealed no problems, no issues."

Several other House members and aides, including an adviser on Asian affairs to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), also accepted trips from the exchange group as recently as last year, according to congressional disclosure forms.

Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said that "there was no reason to think this group was anything other than a charity."

Reps. Jim McDermott (D., Wash.), John R. Carter (R., Texas) and Michael M. Honda (D. Calif.), and the House delegate for American Samoa, Eni Faleomavaega, traveled to Seoul at the group's expense from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2, 2003, according to a database compiled by researchers at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Attempts to reach aides for all four were unsuccessful last night.

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