Earmark scandal: Rep. Ortiz, D-Tex., accepts thousands in free trips from company that received $5 million 

Roll Call has the details:

Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas) has accepted tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of trips to China from a development corporation in his hometown that he aided by securing earmarks and other federal assistance worth millions of dollars.

Ortiz has also traveled on at least one of these trips with his former chief of staff, Lencho Rendon, who was working for Ortiz when he secured a $5 million earmark for the Robstown Improvement Development Corp. The corporation has now hired Rendon as a consultant. Robstown Improvement is a nonprofit, city-chartered corporation that uses sales tax revenue to try to spur economic development in the city.

Armando Gonzalez, president of Robstown Improvement, said the China trips are part of an aggressive effort on the part of the city of Robstown to lure foreign investment, and that Ortiz, a frequent traveler to Asia, is “the best ambassador of our little town. ... He has a lot of relationships that are established there that pretty much open doors for us over there in our business relationships.”

“We’ve invited him a few times to China with us on our trade missions,” Gonzalez said.

On Jan. 2, Ortiz, Rendon and seven other businessmen and local officials flew to China for a nine-day visit sponsored by Robstown Improvement.

The documents indicate that Robstown Improvement paid just over $10,000 for the lawmaker’s transportation, lodging and meals, but Gonzalez said other participants on the trip, including two representatives of private companies, paid their own way.

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