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Peterson, Coleman among top congressional travelers

The Center for Responsive Politics has put together a new database cataloguing trips taken by members of Congress and their staffs that are paid for by private groups. Rep. Collin Peterson, the moderate Democrat who represents northwest Minnesota, was third nationwide in terms of the number of subsidized trips. Peterson and his staff traveled 47 times in the last two years at a cost of $42,533. Among the journeys: a trip to Louisville, Kentucky to study that state's farming policies and a visit to Stuttgart, Arkansas (sponsored by Pheasants Forever to the tune of $600) to learn about conservation programs.

When the database is ranked in terms of sheer dollar amounts of subsidized travel, another Minnesotan emerges near the top, Sen. Norm Coleman. The junior senator's office ranks eighth in the nation, receiving $53,978 in travel costs from private groups for 26 trips. Hormel Foods, for instance, spent $3,252 for Coleman to be a speaker at the company's board retreat in September 2005, while BellSouth Corp. doled out $523 for a member of the senator's staff to visit company headquarters. Most strangely, Coleman and his son Jake received $1,632 in travel costs from Sen. Ted Stevens' re-election committee to attend the 2005 Kenai Classic, a sportfishing tournament and fundraiser in Alaska.

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