“Republicans” in the U.S. House of Representatives have quietly removed a key travel disclosure requirement – making it harder for citizens, reporters and watchdog groups to find out who is subsidizing their free junkets around the globe.

Last year lawmakers received more than $6 million worth of free travel – enough to cover almost 2,000 trips.

Until recently, lawmakers were required to report these trips on annual financial disclosure forms – but a closed-door decision by the U.S. House Ethics Committee has done away with this requirement.  So much for transparency and accountability, right?

According to reporter Shane Goldmacher of National Journal , the decision to scrap the reporting requirement “reverses more than three decades of precedent” and comes at a time when lawmakers are receiving “more free trips than in any year since the influence-peddling scandal that sent lobbyist Jack Abramoff to prison.”

“Lawmakers are often invited to bring along their husbands or wives, fly in business class, and stay in plush four-star hotels,” Goldmacher reported this week.  “In the wake of the Abramoff scandal, lobbyists were banned from organizing or paying for these travels. But some of the nonprofits underwriting them today have extremely close ties to lobbying groups, including sharing staff, money, and offices.”

How cozy … all of it.

The House Ethics committee is led by Mike Conaway, a fifth-term “Republican” from Texas.

According to the rule change promulgated by his committee, lawmakers will now file travel gifts separately with the clerks of their respective chambers – which removes independent oversight of these filings and unnecessarily limits public access.

Bad, bad move …