Stones Fly In City Of Glass Houses: Congress and the White House

As a longtime critic of congressional junkets and travel, I am a bit confused by the effusion of shock and contempt by our congressional leaders in both parties over the recent Nevada conference by GSA employees. There is no question that the conference was outrageous and an abuse. However, these are the same people who have spent hundreds of millions on trips that have long been denounced as little more than paid vacations and long fought for the right to be wined and dined by lobbyists and other interests at swank hotels and restaurants (here and here and here). In the meantime, recent reports show that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has cost the taxpayers $860,000 to fly back and forth on weekends to his home in California. That is almost the exact amount spent at the Nevada conference. They sound like a city of Claude Rains, “shocked, shocked” by the allegations as they rush to make their private flights on government aircraft.

Panetta has apologized for his costs of travel. The costs of the 27 roundtrip flights amount to $3,200 per flight hour for his Air Force C-37 — somewhat comparable to a Gulfstream jet. The high costs are associated with his insistence in “going home” to California. Pelosi was previously criticized for using military jets to go to California at a huge public cost. At least Pelosi could claim that she has to return to her district — though I have previously criticized her for these flights and her purchase of planes to be used by members for junkets. Panetta’s flights in my view are excessive. He could simply not fly to California for weekends and show a modicum of fiscal restraint.

The hypocrisy shown over the GSA conference has reached a new high in this city. There are members of the legislative and executive branches who have not bilked the public for such trips. However, they are you will find few such examples among Democratic and Republican leadership who have records replete with junkets and free vacations (dressed up as educational trips).

24 thoughts on “Stones Fly In City Of Glass Houses: Congress and the White House”

  1. There a plenty of examples of outrageous government waste, but on the whole I’d bet there are fewer extravagances in the executive branch than in Congress – and when they’re exposed, as in the GSA case, they tend to get punished. And there are plenty of rip-offs in the private sector – remember the Tyco CEO’s office decor and birthday parties?

    But as for the examples Prof. Turley discusses, I’m not sure he’s right about Secretary Panetta. What the professor describes as an “apology” for his “excessive” travel was not exactly that. The story is more nuanced: Panetta’s case for flying on military aircraft makes sense to me: he’s the Secretary of Defense, and has to be in constant reach of military communications. You can’t get that on commercial aircraft. Should he be flying home on weekends as often as he does? Well, the man is 73 years old. He could easily be retired, or, just as easily, be making lots more money in the private sector. If instead he’s doing a good job for the US government, I can’t begrudge him getting home to be near his kids and grandchildren or simply the comfort of his own digs. The point is, you have to look at all the facts before you deem a high official’s travel as “wasteful” or “excessive.”

  2. It is not a good phenomenon, I think they should be more thought of saving the money to strengthen other aspects of development

  3. You guys don’t understand, it’s not hypocrisy, if any of them were Democrats, the others would criticize them too…

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