Friday, March 23, 2012

Was Lugar Billing Taxypayers For Campaign Expenses?

Sen. Richard Lugar made a pre-emptive move yesterday to head off further examination of his Senate travel records by announcing that he was repaying taxpayers $4,500 for trips back to Indiana that he had charged to the government. Lugar made the announcement only after his expense records had been obtained through a public records requests and his office faced questions about them from the Washington-based Politico. Lugar's staff cited what they described as an "obscure Senate rule" that requires senators to pay for their own overnight lodging while the Senate is not in session when they return to their home states within the region of their so-called duty station, which is the place the senator has declared as his place of residence within his home state. In Lugar's case, he has designated the home of Elizabeth Hughes as his "duty station," even though he and his wife sold that home 35 years ago and have no agreement with the current owner to use it as their Indiana residence. Lugar's staff claims the charges being repaid cover hotel bills submitted all the way back to 1991--as far back as records still exist, but is this move intended to mask an entirely different problem?

Politico reported yesterday that Lugar was "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." An examination of the records uncovered by Politico may reveal that in 2011 alone, Sen. Lugar may have been billing taxpayers for trips he made back to Indiana for political purporses. Those include the following trips:

  • For a trip January 20-23, 2011, Lugar received a reimbursement for $393.73 for a trip that included for a fundraiser his campaign hosted in Carmel on January 21, 2011.
  • For a trip May 31-June 4, 2011, Lugar received a reimbursement of $513.96, which included meetings at his Indianapolis campaign headquarters on June 1, 2011 and a National Republican Senatorial Committee event in Evansville on June 4, 2011.
  • Lugar received a reimbursement of $162.83 for June 25-26, 2011 during which he attended a political event in Hamilton County.
  • A reimbursement for July 3-5, 2011 of $813.13 included Lugar's attendance at a political event in Syracuse.
  • For a trip made on July 8-July 10, 2011, Lugar received a reimbursement of $817.78 during which he attended a political event in Morgan County.
  • A $551.14 reimbursement for the period of August 24-September 2, 2011 included at least one fundraiser for his campaign held in Kokomo and political events in Indianapolis, Columbus and Fort Wayne.
Those return trips to Indiana during 2011 alone represented $3,252.57 in travel charges billed to taxpayers. Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker told the Star's Mary Beth Schneider that he wanted Lugar to publicly release the internal audit that Lugar says his staff performed to determine that $4,500 should be reimbursed to taxpayers since 1991. The Indiana Democratic Party obtained Lugar's Senate travel records through a FOIA request and is no doubt questioning whether Lugar billed taxpayers for campaign-related expenses, which is prohibited under Senate rules. The release of the internal audit would allow an independent determination of whether the trips Lugar is now seeking to repay to the government included trips he made back to Indiana for campaign-related purposes. Lugar should release all of the information it has now; otherwise, you can bet this chapter of the campaign has not ended yet.

The Politico's Manu Raju has another story today about the pressure being put on Lugar to release the internal audit. "I have no idea what they want," Lugar told Raju. "We'll consider that but for now I'll just wait for their call." Quoting Parker, Raju writes, “Under extreme pressure, Sen. Lugar conducted an internal audit to find just how much he has billed Indiana taxpayers for hotels.” Parker continued, “After reimbursing taxpayers for rooms that he improperly billed them for, it is essential that Sen. Lugar make public the results of that audit. It’s a shame that it’s come to this: Indiana’s senior senator paying back taxpayers for staying in hotels when he could have just maintained a residence here.”

1 comment:

Marycatherine Barton said...

The arrogance of Dick Lugar!! His voters do not like to believe that they were conned, and most will probably return him to office.