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The National Show: The Abramoff Effect

While walking the floor of the Georgia World Congress Center at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association’s National Show last week, we couldn’t help but wonder, Where are all the members of Congress?

Call it the Jack Abramoff Effect. It seems the lingering odor of impropriety emanating from the scandal-engulfed lobbyist has put a damper on Congressional junketeering.

Typically, the National Show hosts a dozen federal legislators, as well as Congressional staff, with the NCTA often footing the bill on registration fees and many travel expenses. (The average tab: $3,000.)

According to an analysis of Congressional disclosure statements by Web site Political Moneyline, frequent flyers on Air Cable include Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.). (That’s three times for Stevens and twice for Sensenbrenner—and his wife—since 2000.)

But with all the post-Abramoff scrutiny of that grey zone where lobbying flirts with vote-buying, the cable association decided to close its checkbook this year. NCTA President/CEO Kyle McSlarrow, acknowledging the specter of Abramoff, said the association didn’t even bother to invite the usual high rollers, so as not to put them in the awkward position of having to decline.

We did spot two of these suddenly rare birds: Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.). The Georgia delegation was notified, McSlarrow says; they came on their own dime.

So did FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, though the commission presumably learned its lesson back in 2003, when a Center for Public Integrity study tallied up the $2.8 million worth of industry-paid junkets that commissioners and staff took during the previous eight years.

Check, please.