Congressman Jim Bridenstine Comments on Travel Review
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Two years ago, I and other Members of Congress were invited to participate in a conference in Baku, Azerbaijan focused on the U.S.-Azerbaijan relationship. The House Committee on Ethics approved my travel request in writing prior to the trip, as is required for all House Members’ travel.
Oklahoma has an interest in Azerbaijan. Oklahoma’s National Guard has an ongoing, cooperative interaction with Azerbaijan’s armed forces in the federally sponsored State Partnership Program, and Oklahoma State University sends faculty to Azerbaijan to assist with agricultural development.
From a U.S. national security standpoint, Azerbaijan is uniquely positioned to diminish the effectiveness of Russia’s territorial ambitions. LINK
Because of Oklahoma’s ties to Azerbaijan and its geopolitical significance I welcomed the opportunity to travel to Baku. The Baku conference improved my understanding of the region’s geopolitical situation.
On January 29, 2015, I received a letter from the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) notifying me that the trip to Azerbaijan, although previously fully approved by the House Committee on Ethics, was the subject of an OCE review. We cooperated with the OCE’s information requests.
I also made good faith efforts to comply with House Ethics gift rules following the trip. During the trip, I was given two rugs. According to a Washington Post report, “Only one lawmaker, Bridenstine, disclosed the rugs on his financial forms. He had them appraised: the smaller rug at $2,500 and the larger at $3,500. In a July 2013 letter to the Ethics Committee, he said he wanted to donate the larger rug to the House Clerk’s Office. Bridenstine was the only lawmaker to offer to pay for the rugs out of his own pocket, telling the committee that he would like to purchase the smaller rug ‘at fair market value.’” Having sought advice from the Committee on Ethics, I determined the best course of action was to return the rugs and I did so. I also received a porcelain tea set which was valued at $87, well under the Foreign Gifts Disclosure Act rules, and an educational book and four local traditional music CDs.
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