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Taxpayers Foot Bill for Lawmakers' Leisure Time Abroad

5971654The United States spends billions overseas, so it is only logical for members of Congress to travel abroad and make sure those funds being spent appropriately.

However, taxpayers are increasingly picking up the tab for these trips, the Wall Street Journal reports -- along with the expenses of lawmakers' travel entourage and the leisure activities they partake in.

Because a 2005 corruption scandal led to restrictions on privately-funded travel, members of Congress are scheduling more government-funded trips, the Journal reports. Legislators' travel abroad cost the government $13 million in 2008, according to the newspaper's analysis – a 70 percent increase from 2005. That figure does not include domestic travel, nor the expense of flying on Air Force planes.

Using congressional travel records, trip itineraries, meeting schedules and personal observations, the Journal lays out examples of leisurely and luxurious trips to places like England and Scotland that lawmakers enjoyed with their spouses, accompanied by legislative aides and military liaisons.

In August, for instance, Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) took a $70,000 trip to Europe to meet with banking regulators and industry executives. Along with conducting business there, they took chauffeured tours with their wives and apparently stopped at a heavy-metal festival.

Meanwhile, Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.) -- the founder of the Blue Dog Coalition, which purports to represent fiscally conservative Democrats -- has taken more than seven trips abroad for meetings with a group called the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. The reported cost for all of the travelers on the first seven trips was $575,000, the Journal reports.

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