Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Being a Congressman has its perks - ask John Mica!

Congress is awesome! Why do
 you think I stayed for 20 years?
Getting elected to Congress brings a lot of really cool perks. Besides having people address you as Representative and getting to shape the future of our country, there's the salary, excellent health insurance, multi-million dollar international vacations...

Wait, what? Multi-million dollar international vacations?

Sounds crazy, right? Well, unfortunately for the American taxpayer, it's all too true when it comes to Florida Congressman John Mica.

The issue is "CODELS," or "Congressional delegations," the so-called "fact-finding missions" that members of Congress get to take on the taxpayer dime. Since he was first elected to Congress in 1993, Mica has taken advantage of this fabulous little perk over a hundred times, sticking us with a bill in excess of four million dollars. 

That can't be right, can it? Four million dollars? That's enough to pay four ransoms to Dr. Evil!

Still awaiting bids for the sharks with laser beams on their heads.

In fact, the true figure might actually be higher than that! Publicly available records disclose when a member of Congress takes one of these trips and what countries they visit. Unfortunately for advocates of transparency in government, the public records have a lot of blank spots: forget getting a detailed breakdown, and some expenses, such as when the CODELS include travel on Air Force planes, aren't included at all.

I've obtained a spreadsheet prepared by the Sandy Adams campaign, which I've linked as a Google document here (if anyone has trouble opening it, email me at sarahrumpf at gmail dot com and I can send you a copy) that lists all the CODELS taken by Mica while he has been in Congress. Again, because the public records omit some details, some figures had to be estimated. Here is how they filled in the blanks:
  • The Air Force planes involved would have typically been either G-5s, 737s, or 757s. The 757s are the most expensive option, but assuming Mica traveled on either G-5s or 737s, those planes cost $5,700 for every hour in the air. Any trip taken on a 757 would cost more than the estimate used by the Adams campaign.
  • The campaign researched the time needed to travel the distance for each of the publicly reported trips, and then multiplied that by $5,700. 
  • The Air Force planes also incur costs while they are grounded, sitting on the tarmac, awaiting to take off, loading and unloading, etc. These costs were difficult to estimate as accurately as direct travel costs from the planes, so they were omitted. 
  • Whenever hotel expenses were not disclosed, an estimated cost of $300/night was used, based on average per night costs for hotels known to have been used.
  • If Mica's wife or other family members traveled with him on any of these trips, there would be additional expenses. The campaign only calculated expenses based on Mica traveling alone.
Essentially, whenever it was necessary to fill in the blanks, Mica was given the benefit of the doubt and a lower figure was used in the calculations.

Total estimated travel expenses for CODELS taken by Mica:

1995-1996: $310,302
1997-1998: $598,188
1999-2000: $747,496
2001-2002: $723,291
2003-2004: $651,156
2005-2006: $259,700
2007-2008: $439,373
2009-2010: $0
2011-2012: $307,716


TOTAL: $4,037,222

There are a number of little gems in the data (again, link to spreadsheet for your own review is here), including a remarkable ten trips to Italy. What, exactly, sort of "fact-finding" does the Transportation Committee Chairman need to do in Italy? Italian trains are notoriously bad at keeping schedules, so let's just hope Mica's not getting tips for SunRail!


I honestly hope that these figures are wrong, that the calculations are incorrect, every single one of these trips served a vital national security or public interest purpose, instead of taxpayers spending millions of dollars to send Mica on nearly two decades of luxurious travel.


I invite the Mica campaign to respond with any corrections and I will happily post them. Please, please, please prove me wrong!

However, the more I review this data and the more research I do, the more I am convinced that not only does this $4 million figure have merit, but that if there is any flaw in the data, it's that the number is likely significantly lower than reality.


The Wall Street Journal conducted a detailed study of CODELS and  the costs to taxpayers a few years ago, in 2009, in which they described several of these trips, the posh lodgings and meals enjoyed by the members of Congress and their families, the time taken for personal vacation pursuits, the fact that many members skipped half of a conference that they had flown to Europe to attend, and a laundry list of sins that leaves the reader with a strong impression that this trip is not quite "essential," never mind if any actual "fact-finding" occurred!



Mica Wasted Over $4 Million Jet Setting on the Taxpayer Dime

Central Floridians Struggle While Mica Travels the World at Their Expense

Orlando, FL – Over the past 20 years, career politician John Mica has been living it up on the taxpayer dime, traveling the world to countries like Malaysia, Italy and France.  According to conservative estimates, his international travels have cost hard-working taxpayers over $4 million.  As Mica continues to run from his big-spending record of earmarks and government excess, how can he justify spending millions of dollars jet setting at the taxpayer’s expense?
“John Mica’s decision to put his international travel bucket list ahead of Central Florida taxpayers is appalling,” said spokeswoman Lisa Boothe. “While Mica has been attempting to pull the wool over voters’ eyes by denying his long history of runaway spending and record-setting earmarks, his 20 years in Congress tell a different story.  On top of adding $10 trillion to our nation’s debt and requesting $4 billion in earmarks, Mica has been earning frequent flyer miles on the backs of hard-working Americans.  At a time when Central Florida families and small businesses are struggling to pay their bills, how can Mica justify jet setting on their dime to some of the world's most popular international travel destinations?”
Central Floridians deserve to know the following: 
1) How can Mica justify his international jet setting at the taxpayer’s expense?
2) Did Mica travel with any family members on the taxpayer's dime? If so, to which destinations and what were the associated costs?
4) Was it really necessary to visit Italy 10 times?
5) Because public disclosures are limited on these international junkets, what was the true cost to Central Floridians? 
###


As I said earlier, I hope these numbers are wrong, and there is an open invitation to the Mica campaign to submit any documents they have that contradict or clarify this data. Otherwise, we're left with yet another elected official spitting out soundbites about being a "fiscal conservative fighter" as they try to survive reelection, but living their life much, much differently.

Anger over wasteful government spending was the fuel that fed the tea party fire in the 2010 elections. As we approach $16 trillion in debt, can future generations of Americans afford John Mica?

See also:


16 comments:

  1. I never realized until this election exactly how much of a mess Mica is. I guess we should thank Sandy Adams for not backing down and being willing to run against him so we could find out all this stuff! Even Republicans need someone keeping them honest! Silver lining to this ugly primary is that we either get a more conservative Congresswoman with Sandy Adams or Mica should hopefully at least be scared into moving to the right.

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  2. Or you could vote for Jason H. Kendall and get honesty in government, someone who deals in facts and who is willing to work on behalf of the people in the District. www.jhk2012.com

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    Replies
    1. Who? I had to look this guy up. Unknown Democrat running in this district? Good luck. I'd be shocked if the DCCC wastes a penny on this race.

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    2. You know about me now.... Only person truly from the district. It is a small district and the ability to get your name out is not difficult. Who needs DCCCC money?

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    3. Well, nice to meet you. Thanks for stopping by. I'll still be voting for Sandy Adams but hope you have a nice day.

      - Sarah

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    4. I've seen Mica speak a few times in the past month and he doesn't look good. I think the race is getting to him. He almost seemed senile.

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  3. Here we go again with unsubstainated claims and mis-information.
    Desperate Politician Lives In Political Glass House
    Sandy Adams is slinging more deceptive mud against John Mica - this time trying to distort Congressman Mica's travel records.
    Congresswoman Adams should not throw stones when she lives in a glass house.
    There's a major difference between Mica and Adams on travel. Congressman Mica takes only official trips for official government business or he personally pays for his travel.
    • Congresswoman Adams launched her career with an out-of-the-box special interest trip to the Middle East with her husband accepting more than $20,000 in special interest travel.
    • After saying she was going to change business as usual in Washington, Adams attended a fundraiser with lobbyists at a posh resort which was the subject of a CBS News Investigation.
    • Furthermore, Congresswoman Adams is taking her political advice from Mr. Jason Roe, who led a former Congressman to the infamous Scotland Golf outing with Jack Abramoff.
    • Finally, Congresswoman Adams chose the Caribbean for her first official travel.
    In contrast, Mica's official travels include:
    • Afghanistan with our troops, which resulted in Mica authoring “Rules of Engagement” legislation that authorized troops to arm and defend themselves.
    • China, which resulted in purchases of 70 U.S. aircraft and other products totaling over $19 billion.
    • Colombia, which led to “Plan Colombia” legislation to stop the narco-terrorist killings and slaughter in Colombia.
    • Saudi Arabia to Khobar Towers, where 19 servicemen were murdered and led Mica to develop “Force Protection” measures that have kept our troops safe.
    • Guantanamo to check out the conditions where the U.S. houses terrorists from the War on Terror. Mica’s response to the press after inspections- “It’s too good for the bastards.”

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    1. Dear readers,

      Please note that the above comment is cut-and-pasted directly from the press release that the Mica campaign sent out yesterday. I don't have time to respond to all of the nonsense in this release, but here's the highlights:

      * The "Caribbean" trip that Adams took was to Haiti (still devastated by the earthquake) and to visit our military stationed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Pretty funny that Mica cites his own trip to Guantanamo as an example of a legitimate trip but then tries to paint Adams' trip to the exact same place as questionable.

      * The "special interest trip to the Middle East" was with AIEF, a 501(c)3 organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (“AIPAC”). Does Mica really mean to smear AIPAC, one of the foremost pro-Israel organizations, as a "special interest"?

      * The point of Adams' original press release was not to say that all of Mica's trips were improper, but merely to point out that the collective list of 100+ trips at a cost to taxpayers of over $4 million seemed excessive. I don't doubt for a minute that some of the trips were legitimate. I find it interesting that Mica chose to respond by cherry-picking four of his trips, attacking Adams by misrepresenting her travel, and ignoring the larger issue of whether all of this travel (10 trips to Italy???) was really necessary.

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    2. More ridiculousness from Mica. He must really think the voters are stupid.

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  4. Also, I wanted to add the following message from my friend, Matthew Klein, that he sent in response to Mica's press release yesterday:

    ---------------------

    Dear pro-Israel and Republican voters in the central Florida area,

    Someone just sent me the email below from John Mica’s campaign. It is quite disturbing to this pro-Israel leader in the community. It is Mica’s response to Sandy Adams’s attack on Mica for many taking tax-payer funded trips over the course of his congressional career. The fact is Sandy took one trip to Israel with AIEF, a 501(c)3 organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (“AIPAC”). Since it’s the only trip Sandy took to the Middle East, it looks like John Mica is framing the trip Sandy took to Israel, our ally, as a liability. I don’t think it’s appropriate that Mica is attacking Sandy Adams for traveling to Israel on a privately-funded trip. Mica’s campaign should be ashamed of itself! This is certainly not the message a Congressman should be putting out there who claims to be pro-Israel. Sandy Adams has been 100% pro-Israel, and it is time Mica quit attacking her for being pro-Israel, when he knows he can’t win on that issue. Sandy has always been one of the first members of Congress to sign onto every piece of pro-Israel legislation. The same unfortunately cannot be said about Mica.

    Please join me on August 14 and vote for Sandy Adams for Congress in the Republican primary.

    Matthew Klein

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    Replies
    1. Also important is that the AIEF trip was completely OKAYED by the ethics committee in advance and Sandy took that trip along with 80 other members of Congress.

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  5. Every time I read another story about Mica, it just gets worse and worse. I wish this primary wasn't so nasty, it gets tiring, but from what I can see, Mica is stretching the truth with a lot of his attacks on Sandy Adams, but I don't see that happening as much with her.

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  6. I think this is a good post and points out some other important stuff about John Mica:

    http://www.redstate.com/tomtflorida/2012/07/18/the-hypocrisy-of-john-mica-freshman-class-mentor/

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, yes, I had seen the post. It's by Tom Tillison who blogs at Florida Political Press and has been another great supporter for Sandy Adams. Thanks for sharing it here.

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  7. Voting for Sandy Adams!July 19, 2012 at 3:26 PM

    John Mica doesn't give me any reasons to vote FOR him, he just attacks Sandy Adams. We should have put him out to pasture a long time ago.

    PS is it true he wears a toupee?

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    Replies
    1. That's what I've heard! Sandy Adams campaign should make bumber stickers that say "JOHN MICA: FAKE HAIR, FAKE CONSERVATIVE!" hahahahahaha

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