Are Reps Abusing House Travel Funds?

House members failed to return leftover travel allowances
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 31, 2010 8:09 AM CDT
Are Reps Abusing House Travel Funds?
A spokesman for Rep. Joe Wilson, one of the lawmakers being probed, says investigators should have something better to do probe Wilson over the purchase of some $2 goblets in Kabul.   (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

Another day, another House ethics investigation: This time, watchdogs are investigating a half-dozen lawmakers believed to have kept or misspent federal funds meant to pay for overseas travel, insiders say. Members of Congress are given a daily allowance—anywhere from $25 in Kabul to $250 in parts of Japan—when overseas, which House rules say must be used to pay for meals, taxis, and other travel expenses. But they routinely keep any leftover cash or spend it on gifts, current and former lawmakers tell the Wall Street Journal, which notes that leftover funds can tally up to more than $1,000 per trip.

The ethics probe—which is investigating both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, including Joe Wilson's admission that he bought $2 marble goblets as gifts—is barred from making its existence public until after the midterm elections. Nancy Pelosi clarified House rules earlier this year to make it clear that excess funds must be returned, and one rep has introduced legislation that would create a formal mechanism for returning the cash, although it has gained just one co-sponsor. "We are under no illusions that this will be a popular measure," a spokesman said.
(More Joe Wilson stories.)

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