National Lampoon’s European Vacation | Citizens Against Government Waste

National Lampoon’s European Vacation

The WasteWatcher

Ostensibly in Scotland to partake in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, several members of Congress are coming under fire for using the trip as a personal vacation.  Led by Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.) the group, consisting of 12 representatives (eight Democrats, four Republicans), nine of the members’ spouses, and five legislative aides, stayed in a $300-per night hotel overlooking the Edinburgh Castle.  In addition to the rooms required to lodge participants, the group rented three additional rooms, which were stocked with “…liquor, Coors beer, chips and salsa, sandwiches, Mrs. Fields cookies and York Peppermint Patties…,” according to a December 17, 2009 article in The Wall Street Journal.  Adding to the expense, the group flew on a plane provided by the Air Force.

This is not the first trip for Rep. Turner, the founder of the “Blue Dog Coalition.”  The Blue Dogs are a group of supposedly fiscally-conservative Democrats who profess to be concerned with excessive government spending and balancing the budget.  The December 17 articles noted that Rep. Tanner has taken seven previous trips to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, costing taxpayers a total of $575,000.  This figure does not include costs associated with travel on Air Force planes.

The Edinburgh trip is just the latest example of congressional travel that has created a stir.  According to a December 16, 2009 article on CBSNews.com, in August 2009 Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) traveled to Europe to visit with banking regulators and industry executives at a cost to taxpayers of $70,000.  In addition to the scheduled meetings, the senators, their wives, and aides were able to find time to tour the Rhine River, and also attend a heavy-metal music festival.

After constraints on privately-funded travel were instituted in 2005, members of Congress have increasingly turned to taxpayers to foot the bill for extensive and extravagant trips.  A Wall Street Journal analysis of travel records found that the reported costs of foreign travel in 2008 was $13 million – a 70 percent jump from 2005.  There does not appear to be any legislative-related need to be out of the country so often.  Apparently considered just another perk of the job, taxpayer-funded travel needs to be re-evaluated by lawmakers, or the only trip they will be taking after the next election will be within their state or district, looking for another job.

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