In March 2005, David James called Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-Texas) Congressional office for some documentation.
James’s nonprofit group, the Liberty Committee, had paid for one of Paul’s flights, and James needed a receipt or boarding pass to document the expense. He’d been pushing Paul for the paperwork and now, on the phone, he was “putting his foot down.”
“So I called the office manager,” James recalled. “They knew me, like, as well as they knew Ron. And I said, ‘Liberty Committee is paying for this expense. I need to get the boarding pass or the ticket or something.’”
The office manager said Paul’s Congressional office no longer had documentation for that flight; Paul had sent it in to the House Finance Office for reimbursement. But Liberty Committee had already sent a check to American Express to cover the charge on Paul’s credit card.
“I don’t care what flights the Liberty Committee pays for,” James said, “because Ron never took enough in expenses to come anywhere near his value to us. And this was piddly. But it’s just what it was.”
James first thought it was accidental and faxed a letter to Paul’s office, requesting that its money be returned for the flight. Paul did repay the $403.70, but the episode strained their relationship and led to a falling out a year later.
In a subsequent conversation, James raised the issue, and Paul “was very curt, and he simply said, ‘Yep, well, happens all the time,’” James, 64, told Roll Call.
Roll Call reported Feb. 6 that Paul was repeatedly paid twice for flights between Washington, D.C., and his Congressional district, receiving reimbursement from taxpayers and also from a network of political and nonprofit organizations he controlled, according to public records and credit card statements for an American Express card in Paul’s name.
Spokesman Jesse Benton said then it was “possible that wholly inadvertent errors were made in a handful of instances” in which flights were reimbursed twice, but he maintained that “absolutely zero taxpayer funds were ever misused.”
But James’ recollection and new documents obtained by Roll Call suggest Paul was aware that he was often being reimbursed twice for individual flights. In all, Roll Call found 26 flights in which several layers of documentation show double payments: credit card statements that detail the ticket purchases, a payment to Paul from his taxpayer-funded House account for reimbursement of a flight and Federal Election Commission records or copies of checks that verify a second payment from a separate group for the same flight.
Roll Call obtained copies of checks from the Liberty Committee to American Express that paid for Paul’s expenses. The records obtained by Roll Call cover about 17 nonconsecutive months. Beyond the 26 flights, documents show an additional 31 flights where it appears Paul was double-reimbursed but the records lack sufficient detail to prove duplicate payments.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.