State News

Tab for Easley's Italian trip tops $100,000

Posted June 19, 2008
Updated June 20, 2008

— Gov. Mike Easley's industry-hunting trip to Italy cost more than $100,000, with a chauffeured Mercedes accounting for about half of the tab, according to state records.

Easley, First Lady Mary Easley and a dozen others made the nine-day trip in April, which was designed to recruit industry and sell North Carolina as a tourist destination.

Expenses for the trip included $19,500 for the Easleys to fly to Italy and back, hotel rooms that ranged from $336 to $785 a night, $106 for laundry service at one hotel,  $732  for a lunch for eight people and $958 for a nine-person dinner.

Ground transportation was the most expensive item on the trip. A chauffeured Mercedes for the Easleys cost $51,640, and a van for the rest of the delegation cost $23,441.

"A rented limo with a chauffeur. It seems extravagant to me," said state Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, one of a number of Republicans to criticize the taxpayer-funded trip.

"In situations where people are standing at gas pumps looking at $4-a-gallon gas, the thought of the governor spending $170,000 on a vacation probably doesn't sit very well with them," Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger said.

Department of Commerce officials were quick to defend the trip and the cost.

"It is not a vacation," Commerce spokeswoman Kathy Neal said, noting Easley's security warranted flexibility – and a higher cost – with his transportation.

The exchange rate of $1.64 to 1 euro makes European travel expensive, Neal said, but it also makes North Carolina more attractive to European tourists and businesses looking to expand.

"The governor is the primary salesperson for the state of North Carolina," she said. "He is the CEO of the state, and when he is able to travel on these business development missions, it makes a real difference."

Commerce Secretary Jim Fain says the trip was a success, saying the state has six promising leads on new or expanding businesses. News stories in two Italian publications also touted North Carolina as an attractive tourist destination, he said.

There has been no word yet on the expenses for the Easleys' security detail or Fain.

"The governor should either return the money to the taxpayers, or he should show results from his trip," state Republican Party Chairwoman Linda Daves said in a statement. "At a time when North Carolina families are struggling to make ends meet, they should not have to foot the bill for the governor’s exploits abroad.”

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  • retired and luv it Jun 20, 2008

    Hey WRAL give us a list of this esteemed party and their relationship to our Governor. Let s have a breakdown on how our tax money was spent. He keeps this up he better have his bulletproof Mercedes and 4 State Troopers ride him around NC to make sure he is around until we are finally rid of him in January.

  • retired and luv it Jun 20, 2008

    Just another "Holier Than Thou" politician grabbing and filling his pockets on the way out the door. Let's hope for good. He s had this attitude since he arrived as Attorney General and still there are enough idiots with blinders on to keep him on top. TERM LIMITS!

  • CozyCake Jun 20, 2008

    The only way I can reconcile the expense is if it resulted in a huge amount of business that is much higher than the actual trip expense. The trouble is that the article indicates only possible businesses. I would think that the expenses would be public information---after all we paid for it.

  • bluewind Jun 20, 2008

    I've already commented but this article really STEAMS me!!! Talk about an elitist attitude!!!

  • denverbob234 Jun 20, 2008

    Easley has done absolutely nothing for the people of NC in his 8 years and all of a sudden in his last year in office he is in Europe on an extravagant trip???? He should be sent the bill for the trip. Does he have a driver for his Mercedes here? He is almost as bad as that thing we have in the whitehouse

  • Historian snuck back in Jun 20, 2008

    Show us his business itinerary while in Italy. I'd be willing to bet it's almost non-existant. Prove to the taxpayers that you didn't just let us pay for your vacation. Prove that every single person that went was included in said state business. Did you all put in a 40 hour work week while you were there?

    Your next vacation may just be with your partener Jim Black.

  • gordonbabe Jun 20, 2008

    If I go on a business trip for my company and my husband goes along... the expense for his ticket, meals and anything else comes out of our money, not my company!

  • gordonbabe Jun 20, 2008

    I think that's the problem everyone should have with this... It's not that HE went and that WE paid for it... it's that EVERYONE else went and that WE paid for it. Sure, he's the CEO of our state... but the rest didn't have to go.

  • something2say Jun 20, 2008

    http://www.governor.state.nc.us/email.asp

    I sent him an email with my concerns! Please do the same! It won't fix what happened but maybe he will pay back some of the money and think twice before he does something like this again with Tax Payer money!

  • Pharmboy Jun 20, 2008

    Hey guys, that's a drop in the bucket compared to the tax incentives the RTP companies get for opening jobs here. If it brings more jobs, I'm all for it. If not, take it out of the govenor's millions.

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