DECEMBER 17, 2009
While asking Americans to buckle down during the financial crisis, federal lawmakers from both political parties have spent millions of tax dollars on extravagant overseas trips that always include the most luxurious accommodations at the fanciest resorts.
Each year members of Congress take countless excursions abroad to visit military bases, meet foreign officials and attend a variety of conferences that seldom are related to the job they were elected to do. Taxpayers pick up the exorbitant tab. In 2008 alone, federal legislators spent $13 million on such jaunts, according to a newspaper analysis, which provides the unsettling details of how elected officials waste public money on foreign travel.
The preposterous bill doesn’t even include the huge expense of flying on U.S. Air Force planes, which lawmakers are not forced to disclose. That can easily run into the tens of millions of dollars for the sorts of trips—a mixture of business and pleasure—exposed in the news report. Legislators usually travel with an entourage that includes military liaisons that carry luggage, hold their hand through customs and escort them on sightseeing journeys. They also stock hotel rooms with food and liquor.
Spouses and legislative aides usually tag along and all ground travel is conducted in private chauffeured vehicles that can run about $2,500 a day. Just last month a dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars—not including travel on Air Force jets—to attend a conference in Scotland.
Besides rooms for sleeping at an upscale hotel and spa overlooking a famous river, the lawmakers also rented the facility’s presidential suite and two additional rooms that were set up as a bar, snack room and office space. The U.S. government paid to stock the makeshift play area with liquor and plenty of munchies.
In between conferences the lawmakers, their spouses and aides shopped for Scotch whisky, relaxed at the hotel spa, dined at the area’s finest restaurant and did quite a bit of sightseeing with their private escorts. A spokesman for the delegation’s leader (Tennessee Democrat John Tanner) assured the conference provided a great opportunity to learn first-hand the views and concerns that other countries have over the “key security issues of the day.”
How that helped constituents back home is yet to be revealed. The extravagant, and seemingly unjustified, international travel is only disclosed because lawmakers are forced to. They aren’t however, obligated to report the cost of taxpayer-financed domestic trips which are also quite popular. Based on the overseas itineraries, it’s safe to bet they’re not staying at Motel 6 or dining at Applebee’s.
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