What Travel Austerity? Congress Globe-Trots in 2011
House lawmakers on track to take 35% more trips in 2011
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 13, 2011 2:40 PM CDT
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) answers reporters' questions during his weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitors Center June 2, 2011 in Washington, DC.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Just last summer, congressional leaders pledged to spend less on travel—but they're not exactly traveling less. During the first five months of this year, special interest groups have spent more than $1 million on lawmakers’ trips, some 200 of them, nearly double the amount spent during the same period last year. Congressional trips, often quite cushy, are “a form of influence peddling when sponsored by private entities,” says a consumer advocacy group rep.

Dozens of other trips were paid for by taxpayers, writes Laura Colarusso for the Daily Beast, a finding based on a review of congressional trip reports. “When the government pays for it, we need to know that tax dollars are being used wisely instead of funding junkets,” adds the rep. A recent trip six House members took to the Louisiana coast seemed more like a Republican victory lap than a fact-finding mission, writes Colarusso; parts of it were paid for by Chevron, others by taxpayers. Even some Tea Party darlings, who called for the government to cut spending, went on that Gulf Coast trip. Though the trip, and others like it, were cleared by the ethics committee, expense reports show eyebrow-raising details like stylish hotels and, in one case, a boat tour in Turkey. House lawmakers are on track to take 35% more trips this year than last.