“You’re asking us to give you more information than we’re required?” asked Catherine Mortensen, a spokeswoman for Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.). “Why would we do that?”
“I think our office is going to pass this time,” said John Hadlock, a spokesman for Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).
A spokesman for Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), the sixth-wealthiest Member of Congress, said Polis does not accept taxpayer reimbursements for his travel.
Only two offices voluntarily provided Roll Call with more documentation than what is publicly reported: Quigley and Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.).
Quigley provided copies of reimbursement “vouchers,” which are forms sent to the House Finance Office with accompanying receipts that document expenses that are being reimbursed.
McHenry’s office allowed Roll Call to review these vouchers and the receipts that were sent in, and provided copies of several sample vouchers and receipts.
These records show that the House has all the information one would need to track duplicate reimbursements, but many of those details aren’t reported.
For official air travel, for example, McHenry provides the House Finance Office with credit card statements for the House-issued card he uses to purchase the tickets. The statements indicate purchase date, passenger name, flight path, ticket price and departure date.
The full voucher records also include documents with personal information, such as a Verizon telephone bill that included a call history.
Quigley told Roll Call that two reforms could improve transparency and reduce the opportunity for double-dipping.
First, he recommended reporting itemized travel expenses with more robust details about who is traveling and to where.
Secondly, he said Members should be required to use the House-issued credit card for purchasing travel expenses. Using such a card means reimbursement payments aren’t sent to Members’ personal bank accounts.
“I have never been reimbursed at the federal level. Never want to be in a million years,” Quigley said. “To me, it’s just not worth the red flag.”
Most Members use House-issued cards to purchase plane tickets, experts said, but a small minority, including Paul, use personal credit cards.
Quigley is considering including other potential reforms in the resolution as well.
“I come from a state where four governors have gone to jail since I’ve been alive,” the Illinois lawmaker said. “Two of my last four predecessors in this seat went to jail or are going to jail. I got elected on this issue. I was the reformer of Cook County, and I recognize that this is a big deal.
“It’s not the sheer dollar figures, it’s the lack of trust – that lack of accountability and transparency that really bothers people,” he added. “I think the public understands that if it can happen with a couple thousand dollars, it can happen with millions.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.