California Democrat Zoe Lofgren did some Googling Tuesday night to figure out if making members disclose where they are traveling with taxpayer money would expose them to danger.
"We're fooling ourselves," she told her colleagues the next morning, as the House Administration Committee marked up new spending rules. The panel rejected an amendment from Lofgren aimed at greater transparency for mileage reimbursements. "Just to see if it was doable, I went on the Internet and in about 10 minutes I could find the home address for members of this committee," Lofgren told her colleagues, who voted 6-3 to reject the proposal.
Rep. Rodney Davis, offered a personal example of why sharing travel logs would be a bad idea.
Davis — who has been working alongside Lofgren for seven months on the spending review launched after Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., resigned in the wake of a scandal over his expenses — feared members could expose themselves or their families to "bullying" by aggressive constituents back home.
On the same day he met with local Service Employees International Union representatives in his district, SEIU members went to Davis' Taylorville, Ill., home and delivered a letter about immigration to his 12-year-old son, Davis said.
"Bullying tactics like that are not conducive to solving problems in Washington, and those are the kind of tactics that you are seeing more frequently," Davis told HOH after the hearing. Transparency is a priority, he explained, but not at the expense of safety.
The House's top law enforcement official agreed that disclosing travel itineraries would be a dangerous idea. House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving explained his reasoning in a memo.
"Listing a Member's travel itinerary provides a clue to where a Member may be at any given time," Irving stated. He warned travel patterns could be exposed. "Once a pattern is identified, an individual could more accurately pinpoint a routine or a frequently traveled route, thus enhancing a Member's vulnerability to unwanted encounters."
Lofgren dismissed the former Secret Service agent's fears.
"The sergeant-at-arms, while doing his job, is overreacting to the detriment of sunshine," she said.
Correction 6:09 p.m.
A previous version of this post misstated the amendment vote tally.
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