WRAL Investigates

Triangle delegation defends travel as part of the job

Posted November 18, 2009

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— Triangle area U.S. representatives traveled the globe in the past three years, a WRAL search of Congressional Records show.

Members of the local delegation flew to Iraq, visited leaders in Afghanistan and joined fact finding missions to countries like Russia. Congressmen toured African countries like Kenya and surveyed poverty in Haiti. Global warming research also landed a delegation in Antarctica.

U.S. Rep. David Price, D-4th, chairman of the House Democracy Partnership, recently returned from trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We do that because it’s in the U.S. national interest,” Price said.

“We have a partnership that's aimed at not just talking, but actually empowering these parliaments,” he said.

WRAL Investigates Triangle delegates defend travel trips

U.S. Rep. Brad Miller said he turned down an invitation to the exotic Galapagos Islands last year.

“I do look at the appearances. I tend to go to places that you would not think of as a vacation destination,” Miller said.

Reporters with “Inside Edition” followed representatives and their families to the islands and documented them staying at an exclusive hotel, diving on coral reefs and shopping.

“I was very happy that I had decided that trip was not one that I wanted to go on,” Miller said.

Miller defends the globe hopping done by the Triangle delegation in recent years to places like Peru, Brazil, Israel, Ghana and Egypt.

As a ranking member of the Science and Technology Committee, Miller studied global warming in Greenland. After visiting the slums in Nairobi, Kenya, he filed legislation to reevaluate U.S. aid to address urban plight.

“It’s to help me do my job, not to get a benefit,” Miller said.

“Lawmakers say that these are important fact finding missions and we don't disagree. But, they should be sharing those facts, the facts of their trip with the public,” said Steve Ellis, of the non-partisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Ellis said Congressional travel is tough to track because it’s scattered and incomplete.

The Congressional Record, the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress, shows reports of per diem expenses without specific breakdown and excludes the costs of flights, because jets are supplied by the military.

WRAL News searched the Congressional Record and found lawmakers reporting thousands of dollars for unspecified per diem.

“At the end of the day, it's our money that is paying for these trips. Again, we're not saying they shouldn't go, but they should then tell their investors, the American people, the taxpayer how they're spending their cash,” Ellis said.

“We need to make sure that it’s (The Congressional Record) more user-friendly,” Price said.

Price argues more members of Congress need to understand the importance of world travel.

“As I look around the Congress and hear some of the debate, the real reform would be to make some of these guys travel and open their eyes to the rest of the world,” Price said. “If we're going to do the job, we have to do it. And if we're going to do it, we have to pay the plane fare.”

The non-partisan Web site Open Secrets provides information about privately-funded Congressional travel.

4 Comments

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  • blueridgerunner Nov 19, 2009

    Unless a trip abroad is directly pertinent to the interests of NC our representatives don't need to go. If they do travel abroad they should be required to state the reason for the trip before leaving, give an estimated cost for the trip, file a detailed public report of the mission and justify their expenses. Money spent on shopping and indulgences should come out of their own pocket.

    Price is right everyone should travel abroad to see how the majority of the world lives. On mission trips, I stay with locals, eat their food, work with them side by side, walk a lot, get dirty and sweat. If I go to the local markets to buy things for myself it comes out of my pocket. I doubt that our representatives will be dining in the streets or staying in local homes but they can choose more moderate accommodations without the highbrow dinning and lavish ammenities.

  • miseem Nov 18, 2009

    Let's face it, Pakistan and Afghanstan are not the plum junkets most people would take. One thing for sure is that about the same number of republicans as democrats have made this trip in the last 6 years. I have no problems with any representative or senator going abroad as long as it's justified. The problem with public assessment of the justification is that the news media would not print it fully, and even if they did, the public would not read it. However, Congress does need to tighten travel rules - they are traveling on our dime.

  • james27613 Nov 18, 2009

    Rep. Price is USELESS. He never tells you how he stands on the issues, only repeats in the emails what the media reports.

    All he has to do is watch CNN or Nat Geo and he don't need to
    waste money flying around the world.

    U.S. Rep. David Price, D-4th, chairman of the House Democracy Partnership, recently returned from trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    “We do that because it’s in the U.S. national interest,” Price said.

  • colliedave Nov 18, 2009

    Reporters with “Inside Edition” followed representatives and their families to the islands and documented them staying at an exclusive hotel, diving on coral reefs and shopping

    And these individuals are solid journalists?