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Congressional luxury retreats draw fire in recession

February 5, 2009 | 10:44 am

Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Virginia

Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats in Congress left town for their annual retreat at Kingsmill Resort and Spa in nearby Williamsburg, Va., which offers "unforgettable golf, luxurious accommodations... and an abundance of recreational opportunities."

The three-day retreat is part of an annual tradition enjoyed by both parties in Congress -- an opportunity to bring families, take off their jackets and relax as they plan their agenda for the coming year.

In fact, last weekend the Republicans took off for their retreat at the Homestead, a historic luxury resort "nestled within the four-season splendor of the Allegheny Mountains" in Hot Springs, Va.

But with millions of Americans out of work and the economy in meltdown, and with President Obama blasting Wall Street executives for their excesses,  some watchdog groups are questioning the venture.

As Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) told Politico.com:

Having a retreat can be a reasonable good thing, and members aren’t going to stay at the Motel 6. Nevertheless, under these economic circumstances, they shouldn’t be at overly expensive resorts ... It’s more than a little disingenuous to holler about AIG’s lavish retreat when members –- who after being asleep at the switch also bear some responsibility for the crisis –- then hold lavish retreats of their own.

Retreats have their defenders. “I believe in them," said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who as chair of the House Republican Conference helped organized this year's sessions. His case: They leave members of Congress "better informed, better acquainted and inspired to do the work."

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Kingsmill Resort


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