A review of Sessions’ travel since 2010 turned up only a handful of Congressional delegation trips over the past several years, including a 2011 trip to Eastern Europe. During that CODEL, Sessions took time out to give the keynote address at the Adriatic Institute for Public Policy’s International Leaders Summit in Opatija, a seaside resort on Croatia’s Adriatic coast.
In an interview with a Croatian news agency, Sessions praised the town’s beauty.
“It is my first time. I am just thrilled to be here. It’s just beautiful, fabulously beautiful. My executive assistant ... comes over here every year for vacation and she speaks very highly of it,” Sessions said as he sat on a veranda framed by pink flowers, “I have not been disappointed.”
During his trip Sessions stayed at the Hotel Milenij, which boasts “outdoor indoor swimming pool with jacuzzi, whirlpool, sauna, steam bath, solarium, sun terrace, fitness hall and a massage room.” According to the website: “The hotel offers a well-equipped business centre, fine shops, rent-a-car and a travel agency. Nearby the hotel there are: tennis courts, sports hall, marina, casino and health and beauty facilities.”
The cost of the trip is unclear — Sessions’ speech came during a multicountry swing through the region that included stops in Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania and Estonia, and the cost of airfare and most other expenses was picked up by the State Department. However, Senate records do indicate Sessions spent $1,487 in “per diem” costs during the CODEL.
Sessions’ staff has also, on occasion, billed the Treasury for official trips to resort areas, including two trips in April and June 2011 to Destin, Fla., by Dr. James Pierce.
According to Senate records, Pierce spent a total of $1,554 on the two trips, both of which were to attend medical conferences. Although Pierce opted to stay at the Courtyard Marriot during his trip to the Medical Association of the State of Alabama to save costs, during his April trip for an ob-gyn conference he stayed for three nights at the Sandestin Beach Hilton Golf Resort and Spa.
The hotel notes on its website that Condé Nast has listed it as one of the “Top 20 Florida Golf Resorts” and “Top 150 U.S. Resorts,” while boasting of “our sugar white sand and emerald green waters.”
Both conferences were clearly within the purview of Pierce’s work as Sessions’ health care aide and appear typical of the sorts of events House and Senate staffers have long attended for professional development or constituent work.
Additionally, a Republican aide points out that “as a general rule, under Senate ethics provisions, if a staff member attends a private conference in an official function those expenses should come from the office travel budget — as Dr. Pierce’s did — and not from an outside source.”
To be sure, Sessions has also taken pains to save the taxpayers money, even when he has been traveling.