Roll Call‘s Jonathan Strong reports that Ron Paul’s office has a history of billing both US taxpayers and outside groups for the same flights — and that he’s been confronted about it:
In March 2005, David James called Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-Texas) Congressional office for some documentation.
James’s nonprofit group, the Liberty Committee, had paid for one of Paul’s flights, and James needed a receipt or boarding pass to document the expense. He’d been pushing Paul for the paperwork and now, on the phone, he was “putting his foot down.”
“So I called the office manager,” James recalled. “They knew me, like, as well as they knew Ron. And I said, ‘Liberty Committee is paying for this expense. I need to get the boarding pass or the ticket or something.'”
The office manager said Paul’s Congressional office no longer had documentation for that flight; Paul had sent it in to the House Finance Office for reimbursement. But Liberty Committee had already sent a check to American Express to cover the charge on Paul’s credit card…
In a subsequent conversation, James raised the issue, and Paul “was very curt, and he simply said, ‘Yep, well, happens all the time,'” James, 64, told Roll Call.
Liberty Committee was reimbursed for that particular flight, but it wasn’t an isolated incident:
James’ recollection and new documents obtained by Roll Call suggest Paul was aware that he was often being reimbursed twice for individual flights. In all, Roll Call found 26 flights in which several layers of documentation show double payments: credit card statements that detail the ticket purchases, a payment to Paul from his taxpayer-funded House account for reimbursement of a flight and Federal Election Commission records or copies of checks that verify a second payment from a separate group for the same flight.
Roll Call obtained copies of checks from the Liberty Committee to American Express that paid for Paul’s expenses. The records obtained by Roll Call cover about 17 nonconsecutive months. Beyond the 26 flights, documents show an additional 31 flights where it appears Paul was double-reimbursed but the records lack sufficient detail to prove duplicate payments.
David James wants Liberty Committee’s money back, and is really angry about the whole thing:
On Feb. 15, James sent a fax to Paul’s Clute office citing Roll Call’s reporting and asking for about $10,000 in reimbursement for nearly 20 double-billed trips.
“It makes me damned angry that he would have taken the Liberty Committee, which was designed to work to pass liberty-oriented legislation and withstand any scrutiny and have contaminated it from the very beginning,” James said.
“It never in a million years occurred to me that this man would be capable of what we can now see. So when there’s mass hysteria and disbelief when this is published, I am not surprised. I was right with them.”
Paul spokesman Jesse Benton tells Strong that anything untoward can be chalked up to “wholly inadvertent errors,” and Paul’s comment to James that this “happens all the time,” while flippant, isn’t exactly wrong; congressmen often mix up the expenses from their campaigns, PACs, and other affiliated financial entities with their office expenses. But when it happens, it’s proper to reimburse the right entities so that the books come out clean, and not doing so can be a fairly serious crime. Paul’s office had better clear up this and similar financial issues as soon as possible. Paul’s reputation as a credible chamipion of the taxpayers will be hard to preserve if he’s embezzled money from them, inadvertently or not.