Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar’s residency problems just grew more uncomfortable: He’s reimbursing the Treasury for erroneously billing taxpayers for a series of hotel stays in Indianapolis in recent years.
The long-serving Senate Republican said because of staff errors, taxpayer money was improperly used to pay for about $4,500 in hotel expenses over the past decade.
After an inquiry from POLITICO, Lugar’s office investigated and acknowledged the issue, and the senator is now taking steps to repay the money.
“I was unaware of routine staff work over the course of several years where we may have made mistakes,” Lugar said Wednesday. “I’m sorry that I was not more observant.”
Lugar also tapped his Senate office account to pay about $70,000 in other hotel costs over the course of his 35-year career, his office said. But Lugar was allowed to use that account in those instances because the Senate was in session.
Lugar has come under withering criticism from his Republican primary and Democratic opponents for living outside the state since 1977. His campaign responded in an ad this week to what Lugar calls “Mickey Mouse” attacks.
He is now consulting with the Senate’s disbursement office to determine whether the reimbursements should be paid for out of pocket or through his reelection campaign account.
Since records were only available dating to 1991, Lugar said “it’s conceivable” that the problems stemmed throughout the breadth of his career, which started in 1977. But he insisted the problem occurred “infrequently,” attributing the issue to staff members over the years handling the issue differently.
The latest snafu revolves around an obscure set of Senate guidelines requiring senators to certify his or her “usual place of residence” in their home state as a so-called duty station during periods of Senate adjournment. During those periods, a senator is not allowed to use official funds within the duty station’s region to cover hotel costs, a problem for Lugar since he no longer owns a home there. Lugar has certified his duty station to be at the Indianapolis house he sold in 1977 — the same property in which he’s currently registered to vote.
After being contacted by POLITICO, Lugar’s office said the senator requested a comprehensive review of the records and found that in a handful of cases during periods of adjournment, taxpayers should not have paid for his stays at various hotels, such as the Holiday Inn near the airport and others.
“I was not even aware of the term ‘duty station’ until all of this arose,” Lugar said Wednesday.
Melanie Sloan, head of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said that while Lugar may have been unaware of the situation, blaming it on staff is not a “sufficient excuse.” Lawmakers, she said, have a “personal responsibility” to make sure they are complying with the rules.Unbelievable. Sen. Lugar has been in the Senate for 35 years and he doesn't know the rules for what travel expenses he can charge to taxpayers and, in particular, travel expenses to visit his own state's taxpayers? Sen. Lugar didn't understand what the term "duty station" meant because the only home he really views as his duty station is his home in McLean, Virginia, the only home he has maintained for the past 35 years. Assuming $4,500 is the total amount of time he billed taxpayers while the Senate was not in session, it only proves just how little time Lugar spends in his home state when the Senate is not in session. Most members of Indiana's congressional delegation commute weekly to and from
“Read the rules,” Sloan said.
Washington while Congress is in session, in addition to the time they spend in the state when Congress is in recess.
It's appalling that Sen. Lugar is allowed to bill the state's taxpayers for any overnight lodging while visiting the state he supposedly represents, particularly based on the fiction that he owns Elizabeth Hughes' home at 3200 Highwoods Court. Elizabeth has made clear that Sen. Lugar and his wife have no agreement with her to use her home as their fictional home so they can register to vote in Indiana. Now we learn that he is using her home as his "duty station" for purposes of billing taxpayers for his trips back to Indiana. The Marion Co. Election Board has determined that the Lugars are illegally registered to vote at Elizabeth Hughes' home and will no longer be allowed to vote there, but now they are suing the board claiming their constitutional rights are being violated because they aren't allowed to register to vote at her address. Lugar should be reimbursing the $4,500 to Hughes since he is falsely representing on official Senate records that her home is his "duty station," even though she is not compensated anything for his claim of a legal residency status with respect to her home.
One statement I will take issue with in the Politico story is a suggestion that Lugar's residency in McLean, Virginia has arisen before during his Senate tenure. That is not the case. It did not become a matter of public knowledge in Indiana that Lugar maintained no home in the state until one of his aides, Mark Helmke, told Real Clear Politics that he stayed in hotels when he visits the state. Prior to that time, it was assumed Lugar relied on a home on the family farm located in another township within Marion County. Lugar told reporters someone else lives in that home and it would not be truthful to claim that home as his registered voting address. Yet he believes it is truthful to claim that Elizabeth Hughes' home is his home for voting registration purposes since 1977 when he and his wife sold her home to another couple from whom she purchased the home.
Watch the Indiana media that is totally in bed with Lugar view this latest disclosure with a collective yawn. They have ignored my earlier report on how Lugar had been using his Indianapolis Senate office in violation of Senate rules as the registered agent address for the corporation that owns the family farm. It wasn't until my report was published that Lugar quickly amended records on file with the Indiana Secretary of State's office to change the registered agent address to his brother's home in Indianapolis. The conspiracy of silence among the mainstream Indiana media protecting Lugar is real. You simply cannot believe anything they report on Sen. Lugar because their number one mission is to ensure he is re-elected to an unprecedented seventh term by hook or crook.