Staff and AP reports
Congressman William Owens is paying back more than $22,000 to the sponsor of a trip that he and his wife took to Taiwan last December, after a news report Thursday said the visit was organized by lobbyists for Taiwan’s government.
Owens, D_23, Plattsburgh, said Friday he "closely followed" the House Ethics Committee’s process to seek approval for the trip. But he said "in an abundance of caution, and to avoid any question about the purpose of the travel, which was to bring jobs to New York," he would personally pay back its "full value;" the Associated Press said $22,132 had been spent on the trip.
Part of the visit included a meeting with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp., which Owens said is "considering opening a manufacturing facility in upstate New York." If it comes to fruition, it could create "hundreds, if not thousands" of jobs, he said. TSMC was one of five international companies whose involvement in a major computer-chip technology research initiative statewide was announced last September by Gov. Andrew Cuomo; SUNYIT is among several locations projected to be part of the initiative.
The news organization ProPublica reported Thursday that Owens’ trip was organized by a lobbying firm founded by Alfonse D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York. Members of Congress cannot take part in officially-connected travel organized by lobbyists. Owens had listed the Chinese Culture University as the sponsor. He said he did not know the trip’s permissibility could be affected by his contacts with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, for which D’Amato’s firm lobbies, said the AP.
Owens’ congressional district covers part of Oneida County, including election districts 1 through 4 in the Town of Lee and all of the towns of Ava, Annsville, Boonville, Camden, Florence, Forestport and Vienna.