Looking at just how official ‘official trips’ are for members of Congress

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In light of the recent revelations about former Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Tom Daschle’s failure to pay taxes for his limousine rides, PaperTrail decided to take a look back at our PowerTrips investigation, documenting roughly 23,000 privately funded trips taken by members of Congress and their staffers over a five and a half year period, with a total value of more than $50 million.

What were we looking for? Well, The Hill this week took a look at whether members of Congress complied with tax laws in reporting the trips they and their spouses received from various private sponsors. The article quotes a spokesman for House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio as noting the difference between Daschle failing to pay taxes after being given a limousine and driver and “members of Congress being accompanied by a spouse in the course of official duties.”

But while many of the trips in our database were undoubtedly for legitimate purposes, it has been well documented that “official duties” could hardly apply to all of the 200+ trips to Paris, 150+ trips to Hawaii, 140+ trips to Italy, and many trips to other vacation and golf destinations. In 2007, following the Center’s investigation, new Congressional ethics rule banned trips paid for by lobbyists and firms that employee them.

On an unrelated note, among Boehner’s 39 reported trips between 2000 and 2005 were stops in Edinburgh, Rome, and Venice.

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