Let Them Eat Airfare!

Ah, back to everyone’s favorite Congressional corruption mini-scandal. Now it turns out that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has a few delinquent travel reports in her closet. Tsk tsk. Now as far as I can tell, this isn’t even remotely in the same league as Tom DeLay’s little shenanigans, but hey, if it turns out that Democrats also deserve a slap on the wrist for ethics violations here, then fine, slap away. What’s interesting, though, is this little bit on the “scandal” of Congressional travel:

The data firm PoliticalMoneyLine calculates that members of Congress have received more than $18 million in travel from private organizations in the past five years, with Democrats taking 3,458 trips and Republicans taking 2,666.

$18 million dollars? Really now, this isn’t a lot of money in the context of total government spending. On the other hand, it’s a lot of money when considered as the sum of private favors from lobbyist to politician. The obvious thing to do, then, is to pool together an $18 million kitty and let members of Congress take trips out of public funds instead. There’s a decent case to be made, after all, that these congressional “fact-finding” trips abroad are sometimes valuable, and more often a fun and decent perk to the job.

The better argument, though, is to say: look, members of Congress are going to go travel abroad one way or another; they can either do on the dime of some trade organization or corporation looking for a favorable hearing on some pro-business bill, or they can do it using taxpayer money, which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t all that much taxpayer money. Which would be a better state of affairs? I, for one, am more than happy to bribe politicians to stop skirting around the bounds of corruption!


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