I’m putting this out there in “blog land” because (in my humble opinion) this as it relates to Butterfield is not going anywhere and is ‘much ado about nothing”. If you add all the $10 dollars here and $50 dollars there, Butterfield would be hard pressed to gather enough cash to buy a deceit meal at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse (which is a great steakhouse and highly recommended if you happen to be in D.C.) But, as politics goes around eastern NC and the “Belt Line”, somebody (tea bagger-no doubt) will take this and run like hell crying foul.
The bigger picture is that any one who travels (at least on a semi-regular basis) will understand it’s hard to keep track with every receipt of every latte, newspaper or cab ride.
I’ve talked with a lot of Congressman over the years and most will tell you that (depending on where they go) they end up spending more money, over time, than the stipends provide. Case in point: try going to Tokyo and buying toothpaste from a gift shop! If you want a 12oz canned Coke, you’ll drop the equivalent of a $5.00 US bill.
The cash payments vary according to the cost of living and range from about $25 a day in Kabul to more than $250 a day in one part of Japan. Lawmakers also usually request and receive an additional $50 a day. Leftover funds can add up to more than $1,000 a trip for longer visits to expensive regions.
Previously in the Journal
- Lawmakers Keep the Change
There is no system for lawmakers to return excess travel funds when they return to the U.S. and investigators may conclude that House rules for the use of per diem are unclear. One lawmaker, Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.), said that he mails a personal check to the U.S. Treasury after each trip. Congress doesn’t keep any record of the amount of per diem that is returned to the government.
The Journal article in March quoted several lawmakers saying they didn’t return excess travel funds to the government. Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.) said he once bought marble goblets in Kabul. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D., Fla.) said he paid for drinks and gifts for people who traveled with him. Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D., N.C.), who is a member of the House ethics committee, said he sometimes keeps the extra money. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R., Ala.) said he didn’t know if he kept extra money because he doesn’t keep receipts.