In response to reports that Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) was double-reimbursed for travel, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) is drawing up a resolution to strengthen travel reporting requirements in the House.
Quigley’s proposal would require Members to itemize individual travel expenses, among other things, in order to fill in gaps in publicly reported data that arose in 2009.
That year, the House for the first time released its quarterly expense reports online. But Congressional administrators erased a vast array of details on the expenditures, making it impossible to determine what much of the money was actually spent on.
The changes also make it almost impossible to track whether Members are being paid by taxpayers and other groups for the same items.
In the case of Paul’s flights, Roll Call obtained copies of credit card statements for an American Express card in Paul’s name on which many flights were purchased. The flight details on those statements matched two payment records, the first filed to the Federal Election Commission by Paul’s campaign and the second to office expenses itemized in quarterly Congressional disbursement statements published by the Chief Administrative Officer of the House.
Even before the 2009 changes, public records alone did not provide enough information to determine whether a payment from a campaign committee and another from a Member’s House office budget are for the same item.
For instance, in December 2008 Paul’s campaign paid $1,217.50 for a plane ticket. Later that month, taxpayers also paid Paul $1,217.50 for a plane ticket. But details that could show whether they were the same ticket — such as departure date, passenger name and flight path — weren’t reported in the campaign’s FEC filings.
The credit card statements included those and other details, allowing the payments to be matched for dozens of flights.
The post-2009 House records offer almost no details. Expenses are described as “commercial transportation” or “travel subsistence.” In many cases, the amounts itemized are large enough to suggest numerous expenses are being grouped together on the same line item, obscuring the costs of individual purchases.
Quigley said he drafted the proposal in response to Roll Call’s story, but he said it isn’t meant to single Paul out. Instead, he urged an investigation to clarify the circumstances of the flights.
“I believe that’s merited and will take its natural course,” he said.
Quigley’s remarks came in response to an inquiry sent by Roll Call to 23 members of the Congressional Transparency Caucus asking whether they would voluntarily provide the details of their travel expenses, including receipts and other documentation, for July 1 to Sept. 30, the period covered by the last statement of disbursements.
Quigley is the chairman of the Transparency Caucus.
Most offices did not respond to repeated inquiries. Other offices balked at the request.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.