A nonprofit group founded to push Rep. Ron Paul’s agenda on Capitol Hill has put its weight behind a bill inspired by a reimbursement snafu of Paul’s.
The Liberty Committee, headed by former Paul aide David James, has launched a lobbying campaign for legislation to improve disclosure of Congressional office expenditures.
The bill, H.Res. 580, would help “expose Washington corruption,” the group says, citing Roll Call’s reporting on Paul double-billing plane tickets and other travel expenses both to taxpayers and his campaign.
The practice netted Paul thousands of dollars in dozens of examples for which documents show he was paid twice.
Roll Call’s review also showed that changes to expenditure reporting in 2009 have shielded details about how lawmakers spend their taxpayer-funded office budgets, prompting Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) to introduce legislation on the subject.
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.
Liberty Committee, which Paul tasked James to launch in 1998, is lobbying for Quigley’s bill.
“Congress suffers from a deficit of public trust, but we can earn that trust back by increasing transparency so taxpayers know how we spend their hard earned dollars. Shining more sunlight on the travel reimbursement process is an important part of holding elected officials accountable because it is a frequent expenditure in most congressional offices. I welcome any support for this and similar transparency efforts,” Quigley said in a recent statement.
The legislation is pending in the House Administration Committee, chaired by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.).
In May, Liberty Committee documented about $20,000 worth of plane tickets it paid for which taxpayers had also paid Paul for. The group prodded Paul to repay the group.
“In short, this practice of double or duplicate billing enriched you while draining funds intended for legitimate projects,” a letter from Liberty Committee said.
Despite promising to review the matter when initially contacted by Liberty Committee, Paul has never responded to the letter, James said.
In September, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, gave Paul a “dishonorable mention” in its annual list of the “most corrupt” lawmakers for the double-billed plane tickets.
Asked about his mention in the list in September, Paul said “I never heard of such a thing.”
On January 3, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., raises her right hand as her son Henry messes up her hair while Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., delivers the ceremonial swearing-in in the Old Senate Chamber. Gillibrand's other son Theodore, lower right, looks on.
Each year since 1990, CQ Roll Call has reviewed the financial disclosures of all 541 senators, representatives and delegates to determine the 50 richest members of Congress. This year's report, derived from forms covering the calendar year 2012, shows it took a net worth of $6.67 million to crack the exclusive club.