When members of Congress travel back and forth from Washington DC to their home districts, taxpayers reimburse the travel. When presidential candidates travel, the campaign reimburses their travel. What happens when a member of Congress is also a presidential candidate? For Ron Paul, it appears that he gets two reimbursements for the same travel, according to an investigation by Roll Call:
Rep. Ron Paul appears to have been paid twice for flights between Washington, D.C., and his Congressional district, receiving reimbursement from taxpayers and also from a network of political and nonprofit organizations he controlled, according to public records and documents obtained by Roll Call.
Roll Call identified eight flights for which the Texas Republican, a GOP presidential candidate and leading champion of smaller government, was reimbursed twice for the same trip. Roll Call also found dozens more instances of duplicate payments for travel from 1999 to 2009, totaling thousands of dollars’ worth of excess payments, but the evidence in those cases is not as complete.
The campaign denies this, although in part by offering a non-sequitur:
Benton said those flights “may appear to show duplicative reimbursements because Congressman Paul’s wife or a campaign staffer traveled with him. In such instances, the U.S. House would reimburse Congressman Paul’s travel to D.C. for Congressional business, while his campaign or political action committee would reimburse his traveling companion’s ticket.” But Benton declined to discuss any of the trips in detail, arguing that the office does not have records for many of the years in question and that Roll Call was using “stolen” credit card records as the basis for the story.
What would “stolen credit cards” have to do with a story about double-dipping on reimbursements? They did get records from American Express about the corporate credit card for Paul’s firm, and the records reviewed by Roll Call show Rep. Paul as the listed traveler in matching transactions:
The available records name Paul as the traveler in most cases. In other cases in which tickets were purchased for Paul’s wife, Carol, or for staffers, those tickets — identifiable by distinct prices, dates and flight paths — were reimbursed separately. In one case, Paul used a company credit card in his name to buy a ticket for his then-deputy chief of staff; Paul was then reimbursed by his Congressional office and also by his campaign.
Roll Call obtained copies of credit card statements for a corporate American Express card assigned to Ron Paul & Associates Inc. on which many flights were purchased. The flight details on those statements matched payment records filed to the Federal Election Commission and office expenses itemized in quarterly Congressional disbursement statements published by the Chief Administrative Officer of the House.
For example, on March 24, 2003, Paul purchased a round-trip flight from Washington, D.C., to Houston for $651.50. Several weeks later, filings with the FEC show, the Committee to Re-Elect Ron Paul paid $651.50 for the Continental Airlines ticket. Congressional expenditure records show Paul also was reimbursed $651.50 by taxpayers for the same flight.
Paul filed articles of dissolution for Ron Paul & Associates Inc. in 2001 with the Texas secretary of state, but the company’s corporate credit card was used for years afterward, the records show.
So the card was stolen, but the thief was kind enough to keep booking travel for Rep. Paul? Er … riiiiiiiiight. [See update below.]
If Roll Call’s investigation bears out, then this raises a few questions. Exactly where did the money go from the duplicate reimbursements? Will the FEC and the House Ethics Committee open their own investigation into Paul’s activities? For that matter, if Paul himself was reimbursed, that might have implications for the IRS as well.
I’ll guess that Paul’s office and campaign will shortly prepare amended disclosures for the trips in question — and write a few checks to cover the funds, too.
Update: A few commenters have pointed out that Benton (who is a good guy, BTW) meant that the records were stolen, not the card. Which is even less applicable to a defense.