Tuesday, April 26, 2005

$16M in trips by congress

This CBS story is written by someone who either doesn't own a calculator or who is trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill. For fun, let's pull it apart and see what kind of dough we are really talking about. Now, before anybody gets all pissed off at me about the influence of money, I don't think the rules should permit these trips at all. The fact of the matter is that the rules do allow it so the real question is how much money/influence are we talking about.
(CBS) A new study shows that members of Congress have taken more than $16 million in privately financed trips over the past five years, with many of the trips sponsored by non-profit groups that are not obligated to disclose who paid the bills.

OK, so let us begin to do some math. $16M sounds like a lot of money. Let us examine.

$16M / 5 years = $3.2M/year

There are currently 535 members of Congress, 435 in the House and 100 in the Senate.

$3.2M / 535 members = $5,981.31

How much influence do you figure $6K buys you with a member of Congress? And that is their yearly average so the average trip has to be somewhat less than that if everybody is in on the game.
But the study shows that more than half the private money spent on congressional travel since 2000 - $8.8 million - came from non-profit organizations who are not obligated to identify who may be actually paying the bills.

OK, so that comes out to less than $3,300 per Congressman. I am really concerned now.
The PoliticalMoneyLine study reviewed 5,410 trips taken by 605 members of the House and Senate. Democratic lawmakers had the edge, taking 3,025 trips, to 2,375 trips for GOP members.

So this tells us that the average trip cost is just under $3,000. Given that any of these groups/individuals can donate $2,000 to their campaign and more to the party, etc...... yawn.
The No. 1 trip-taker in dollar terms was Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Sensenbrenner took 19 trips valued at $168,000.

So the worst offender took less than 4 trips per year at an average cost of $8842. That may be a big inducement for the county dog catcher, but we are talking about people who get wined and dined at 5 star restaurants on a very regular basis. I would love to get 4 such vacations/year but I am not in a position to deliver millions of dollars to anybody.
In contrast, DeLay finished 28th by taking 14 trips valued at $94,568.

The best part, IMNSHO, of the article. But put in more graspable terms.... Delay took less than 3 trips per year at an average of $6755. And he is the Senate Majority Leader!! A check for $10,000 won't get you an hour with his secretary.

And my favorite, just for the humor factor:
Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn., took the most trips - 63. But Ford's less expensive domestic jaunts only totaled $61,000.

Either this guy never leaves the state of TN or I want the name of his travel agent. That is less than $1,000 per trip. And my guess is that it has been a long time since Rep. Ford has slept at a Motel 6.

And just for reference, how much did George Soros alone spend on political activities in 2004?


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