“Operation Drain the Swamp,” update

In the past, I have been quite interested in “Operation Drain the Swamp.” A piece by Brody Mullins and John McKinnon in  today’s WSJ suggest that Speaker Pelosi has some additional work to do in the final months of her reign if she is going to bring the operation to a successful conclusion. According to the article, a half-dozen members of Congress are being investigated for the common practice of pocketing government funds provided to cover expenses when traveling overseas. Members receive a per diem that can run as high as $250 per day. However, the costs of travel are often covered by their hosts (foreign governments, ambassadors).

Lawmakers routinely keep the extra funds or spend it on gifts, shopping or to cover their spouses’ travel expenses, according to dozens of current and former lawmakers. …Leftover funds can add up to more than $1,000 a trip for longer visits to expensive regions.

Those currently under investigation include: G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Joe Wilson (R-SC) Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Solomon Ortiz (D-TX), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), and former Representative Mark Souder (R-IN).

Of course, who can blame our representatives for pocketing a thousand here and a thousand there. It must seem trivial when you are used to throwing around billions of taxpayer dollars. Should any of this  come as a surprise? Read the following:

There is no system for lawmakers to return excess travel funds when they return to the U.S. and investigators may conclude that House rules for the use of per diem are unclear. One lawmaker, Sen. Richard Durbin (D., Ill.), said that he mails a personal check to the U.S. Treasury after each trip. Congress doesn’t keep any record of the amount of per diem that is returned to the government.

Elected officials design the institutions and rules by which they are governed. Anyone familiar with principal-agent problems should not be shocked and horrified by more evidence that individuals design institutions to further their own self-interest. Additional evidence? The WSJ piece ends with a reminder:  “Investigators won’t make the probe public until after the election due to a House rule that bars announcements of ethics investigations in the months before an election.”

One thought on ““Operation Drain the Swamp,” update

  1. So when congressmen run afoul of their vaguely written laws they expect a pass, because their laws are generally IMPOSSIBLE to follow to the point that even a truly innocent person couldn’t be convicted of something stupid. Throw a few of them in federal prison for a decade or so ever couple of years and I think we might actually see some real change (for the better this time).

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