A group of Washington lobbyists led by Richard Kessler under the umbrella of the Ripon Educational Fund and the Ripon Society has spent millions of dollars taking lawmakers to European capitals and U.S. resorts, thereby skirting congressional ethics rules that forbid registered lobbyists from paying for congressional travel.
Kessler, head of Kessler Business Services, has kept a lower profile than many better-known Washington lobbyists, such as admitted felon Jack Abramoff. Few have questioned the more than $1 million in free travel that lawmakers have reported receiving from groups and companies Kessler appears to control or influence. All told, Kessler-influenced groups and companies are responsible for providing 6 percent of the $17.6 million lawmakers have reported receiving in free travel from private companies and organizations from 2000 to mid-2005, Public Citizen estimates.
By funneling travel money through the Ripon Educational Fund and the Ripon Society, his parent company, Century Business Services, and his lobbying clients, Kessler has apparently made it possible for lawmakers to accept free trips to European capitals and U.S. resorts without violating ethics rules. It is legal for lawmakers to take trips paid for by private companies and organizations.