Congressmen Studied Climate Change—on $500K Trip

Lawmakers snorkeled, visited South Pole
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 8, 2009 8:12 AM CDT
Some of the lawmakers on the fact-finding trip scuba dived and snorkeled at the Great Barrier Reef.   (©clrcmck)
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(Newser) – Snorkeling, scuba diving, and penguin-watching were on the agenda when 10 members of Congress went on an 11-day trip to study climate change in early 2008, a Wall Street Journal investigation finds. Lawmakers from both parties, along with six spouses, visited New Zealand, Antarctica, and Australia's Great Barrier Reef on the trip, which, to some, sounds suspiciously like a jaunt to tourist hot spots.

Trip leader Rep. Brian Baird defended the journey, which cost taxpayers an estimated $500,000, calling it "more valuable than 100 hearings." And while his rep said Baird would have been "every bit as happy camping as staying in a hotel," documents show the group spent $32,000 on hotels and meals during its two days in Australia. But one Republican congressman who attended said it's not as good as it sounds: "There are a lot more glamorous things to do than hang out on the South Pole. I never want to wear that many clothes again."