Tag Archives: Congressional thieves

A Prince of Pork is dead

See ya, fella

John Murtha dead at 77. Except for people like those two Chesire rapist/murderers, I wish no one ill, even politicians I disagree with, so I’d have preferred to see this man quit, like Dodd or better yet, be defeated for reelection. But as a taxpayer, I can’t say I’ll miss him.

UPDATE: In the land of the blind, the one-eyed-man is king. Five-foot-two Dennis Kucinich calls Murtha a “Congressional giant”. Murtha betrayed his fellow Marines by calling them murderers, raped the country while enriching himself by awarding military contracts to his brother’s clients, built an airport for no one in his home district and would have soon been indicted for corruption had he not dropped off the planet and headed for lower regions today. He was Nancy Pelosi’s most trusted advisor according to Politico, and that says all one needs to know about him and Nancy Pelosi.


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It’s those damn special interests stirring up the voters!

 WASHINGTON — When 10 members of Congress wanted to study climate change, they did more than just dip their toes into the subject: They went diving and snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. They also rode a cable car through the Australian rain forest, visited a penguin rookery and flew to the South Pole.

The 11-day trip — with six spouses traveling along as well — took place over New Year’s 2008. Details are only now coming to light as part of a Wall Street Journal analysis piecing together the specifics of the excursion.

It’s tough to calculate the travel bills racked up by members of Congress, but one thing’s for sure: They use a lot of airplanes. In recent days, House of Representatives members allocated $550 million to upgrade the fleet of luxury Air Force jets used for trips like these — even though the Defense Department says it doesn’t need all the planes.

The South Pole trip, led by Rep. Brian Baird (D., Wash.), ranks among the priciest. The lawmakers reported a cost to taxpayers of $103,000.

That figure, however, doesn’t include the actual flying, because the trip used the Air Force planes, not commercial carriers. Flight costs would lift the total tab to more than $500,000, based on Defense Department figures for aircraft per-hour operating costs.

Lawmakers say the trip offered them a valuable chance to learn about global warming and to monitor how federal funds are spent. “The trip we made was more valuable than 100 hearings,” said Rep. Baird, its leader. “Are there members of Congress who take trips somewhat recreationally? Perhaps. Is this what this trip was about? Absolutely not.”

Other legislators agree it wasn’t all fun and games. “There are a lot more glamorous things to do than hang out on the South Pole,” said Rep. Frank Lucas, an Oklahoma Republican who traveled as well. “I never want to wear that many clothes again.”

Taxpayer-funded travel for Congress is booming. Legislators and aides reported spending about $13 million on overseas trips last year, a Journal analysis has shown, a nearly 10-fold jump since 1995.

Other lawmakers have taken big-ticket trips. In June 2007, Ted Stevens, then a Republican senator from Alaska, and four other senators went to the Paris Air Show, costing the government $121,000 for hotels, meals and other expenses. Information needed to estimate their flight costs wasn’t available.

Mr. Stevens said the purpose was to learn more about developments in aviation. “My state is very dependent on the industry” because many cities can be reached only by air, he said.

The 10 members of Congress gathered at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on the morning of Dec. 29, 2007, along with several of their staff. Those who brought spouses were four Democrats (Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, Rep. Russ Carnahan of Missouri, Rep. Charlie Melancon of Louisiana and Rep. John Tanner of Tennessee) and two Republicans (Rep. Randy Neugebauer of Texas and Mr. Lucas of Oklahoma). Spouses must pay for their own meals, but they don’t have to pay for lodging and travel.

Asked about his wife’s participation, Mr. Lucas cited a busy congressional schedule that often keeps families separated, even on weekends. If spouses couldn’t go along on trips abroad, “then you couldn’t travel — simple as that,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Melancon said the representative’s wife of 37 years, Peachy Melancon, added “insight and perspective” that “only amplified the educational benefit he gained as a lawmaker.”

Representatives for the other four who brought spouses declined to comment on doing so. Lawmakers said the trip offered them a valuable chance to learn about global warming and to monitor how federal funds are spent on scientific projects.

The party boarded a C-40, the military’s business-class version of a Boeing 737. It is designed to be an “office in the sky” for government leaders, according to the Air Force Web site.

The lawmakers touched down at their first destination, Christchurch, New Zealand, a few hours before sunset on New Year’s Eve. Mr. Baird watched the town’s fireworks at midnight, his spokesman said.

The next day, Jan. 1, 2008, preparing for their South Pole trip, the lawmakers were provided clothing for extreme cold weather, including thermal underwear, according to the National Science Foundation.

On Jan. 2, the lawmakers and four aides flew to McMurdo Station in Antarctica on a supply flight, about 800 miles from the South Pole. “Take your camera to dinner,” the itinerary reminded the travelers, for a post-meal tour of Discovery Hut, an outpost that was the launching pad for early South Pole expeditions.


After flying back to McMurdo, they visited a penguin rookery to see the “threats to the wildlife,” said a spokeswoman for the National Science Foundation.

They also spoke with National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists there who hope to use the South Pole’s frigid and hostile environment to test inflatable moon dwellings. “Some of the most important science in the world is being done down there,” Mr. Baird said.

Next stop: Australia. The group took a boat trip to the Great Barrier Reef, where lawmakers spoke with scientists about research showing its vulnerability to climate change, according to the Science Committee’s report.

Mr. Baird, a certified scuba diver, said he went on two shallow reef dives with scientists. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a California Democrat, said she preferred to snorkel. Mr. Lucas said he didn’t enjoy the boat trip because he hasn’t spent much time on the water. The reef is one of the world’s premier diving destination

The tab for two days in Australia was more than $50,000, according to the travel-disclosure form. According to the document, the lawmakers spent $32,000 on hotels and meals, $7,000 on transportation and $10,000 for “other purposes.” As on all such oversees trips, each lawmaker gets a daily stipend of $350 for incidentals, according to the form.

Mr. Baird said the travel report for Australia was inaccurate. His spokesman didn’t respond to requests for details.

The trip ended with a layover in Hawaii to refuel the Air Force plane. There, lawmakers visited troops based at Hickman Air Force Base.

On the last night of their 11-day trip, the lawmakers stayed at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki. The spokesman for Mr. Baird said he would have been “every bit as happy camping as staying in a hotel.”

Except that they didn’t go camping, of course – we bought them the most expensive hotel rooms on the island. Lyndon Johnson said that the difference between being a Senator and a Congressman was “the difference between chicken salad and chicken shit.” No longer.

You know, I’ve grown tired of being called a member of a “special interest’ for wanting to raise my family, live in peace and keep most of my money. The real special interests, it seems to me, all want to take other peoples’s money and use the power of the government to force them to behave in ways that they think they should. Wall Street firms, teachers unions, manufacturers, the UAW are all special interests. Since the term has been so corrupted, meaning today anyone who wants what you don’t want them to have, I suggest we use Ayn Rand’s term for these people: looters. And the chief looters of them all are the porkers at the trough in Washington.


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WSJ update on Congressional travel – they understate the cost – who knew?

Wanna spend a week in Europe for just $465? You can, but you have to be a member of Congress, work for one or, worst fate of all, be married to one. The Journal follows up yesterday’s expose of these pirates by revealing today how, using their own rules, the hide what they’re stealing.

WASHINGTON — On Christmas Day, Sen. Arlen Specter flew to Europe and the Middle East for 11 days of meetings with government officials.

The travel-disclosure form the Pennsylvania Democrat filed for the trip reported the seven-country tour with his wife, an aide and two military officials on a private military jet cost $571 a person, or a total of about $2,800.

The real cost was far higher, in excess of $70,000, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.

Mr. Specter’s travel report is one of scores of examples of the gap between the expenditures congressional delegations are required to report and what the trips actually cost taxpayers.

A Journal analysis of 60,000 travel records shows that lawmakers disclosed spending about $13 million in 2008 on overseas congressional delegations, or codels. That is nearly a tenfold increase since 1995, the analysis shows.

But the total tab disclosed by Congress is only a fraction of the true cost to taxpayers, according to the Journal’s analysis.

Under a 1970s law that authorizes taxpayer-funded codels, lawmakers only must disclose how much they spent on lodging, meals, ground transportation and other incidental expenses. Members of Congress also must make public their spending on commercial airfare, though most lawmakers fly on military planes, which don’t have to be disclosed.

Mr. Specter’s disclosure form reports that he spent $1,103 for food and accommodations. The aide that accompanied him spent $1,750, according to the disclosure form. The cost of food, hotels and transportation for the two military officials was not disclosed.

Kate Kelly, a spokeswoman for Mr. Specter, said her boss “meticulously complies with Senate reporting requirements, reimburses the Treasury with unused per diem, and customarily files an extensive trip report describing the substance of his meetings with foreign officials.” She added that the cost of codels is a “good investment considering the insights gained on billions of dollars of foreign aid.”

Mr. Specter pays for his wife’s share of accommodations out of his own pocket, Ms. Kelly said.

In February, Rep. Ike Skelton (D., Mo.) and 10 other lawmakers reported that their four-day trip to Hawaii, Guam, Japan and South Korea cost taxpayers $465 a person. Later that month, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D., Mass.) and a delegation of lawmakers went to Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Hungry for five days, according to congressional records. The disclosed cost was $254 a person. A spokeswoman for Mr. Skelton said he couldn’t be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for Mr. Lynch declined to comment.

In early 2008, Sen. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) and an aide went to Israel, Dubai and Prague and reported total expenses of $529 per person, according to a public report the senator filed. Sen. Kyl couldn’t be reached for comment, according to a spokesman.

Another big unknown expense is the salaries and overhead of the nearly two-dozen government employees who organize codels. The State Department alone has eight employees working full-time on travel from offices on Capitol Hill. The State Department has not responded to requests for comment on its involvement with congressional travel.

The Department of Defense doesn’t disclose the cost of maintaining a fleet of 16 passenger planes that are primarily used by lawmakers and other government officials. Documents obtained by the Journal show the costs of flying those planes runs between $3,000 and $12,000 an hour depending on the type of aircraft, according to a Department of Defense reimbursement schedule.

The cost to fly a small military jet from Washington to the Middle East is about $150,000, according to documents obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Defense Department, in a statement, said that codels are “not a burden for the military, but while we are transparent about the support, it is difficult to ascertain costs…Congress dictates where we take members and we try to carry out that tasking in the most economical manner possible.


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House Ethics Committee goes after lawmaker!

No, not Chris Dodd, he’s a senator, silly and nobody goes after senators. And not Charles Rangel, he’s head of the House Ways and Means Committee – can’t do that. No, what’s caught the eagle eye of our legislator/guardians in Washington is the egregious case of someone named Zach Space, an Ohioan rep that I certainly have never heard of and you probably haven’t either, which is the point. Mr. Space’s crime? Not tax evasion, not sweetheart mortgage deals, not illicit real estate deals in Ireland, but speeding! Yes, he was caught traveling 65-miles -per-hour in a 50 – mile zone. The American public is sick of the corruption oozing out of that cesspool in Washington and Congress must take strong, decisive action to show the voters that it’s a new Congress now, where the likes of criminals like Cheney won’t be tolerated. You speed, you get chastised, buster, no ifs, ands or buts.

Now will you people please shut the fuck up and let us go about rewarding our friends and punishing our enemies?

Here’s the Washington Post’s story on this advance in Congressional ethics:

Posted at 12:46 PM ET, 04/ 3/2009

House Ethics Committee Takes Tough Action (Against Nothing)

Just when you naysayers thought the House ethics committee was a complete and total sham of an outfit comes the panel’s swift and forceful action. Against what, you ask?

Against – drum roll, please – a lawmaker’s minor speeding infraction.

That’s right, the ethics panel has taken its most expeditious action in years on the case of Rep. Zach Space (D-Ohio), who was ticketed last weekend for speeding (driving 65 mph in a 50 mph zone) and given a warning for driving with an expired license.

While both the House and Senate ethics committees have taken months on end to investigate – and we use that term loosely – Rep. Charles Rangel‘s (D-N.Y.) questionable financial dealings and Sen. Chris Dodd‘s (D-Conn.) alleged sweetheart mortgage deal, the case of a misdemeanor speeding ticket got prompt attention.

Never before (in recent history, at least) has the ethics committee acted so quickly. The panel immediately took up the matter, reviewed it, and decided not to punish Space.

To prove its hard work on the case, the House ethics committee this week put out a press release on the very serious matter of Space’s driving infraction. An investigation won’t be necessary, the release noted. (Really tough call on that one, huh?)

Is this supposed to trick people into thinking the ethics panel actually investigates ethics cases against members of Congress?

Well, we doubt it.

For one, the committee doesn’t even have a permanent staff director. And secondly, as Politico’s John Bresnahan reports, the new outside Office of Congressional Ethics has yet to refer a single case to the House ethics committee and remains “encumbered by layers of secrecy.”

As the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said last week: “Remember all the talk about the new Office of Congressional Ethics and how it was going to change the way ethics issues were handled in the House? We do. We’re still waiting. We had very low expectations in the first place.”

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