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Report: House Ethics Panel Examines Travel Stipend Spending

The House ethics committee is questioning six lawmakers’ use of overseas travel funds, the Wall Street Journal reported on its website Monday night, citing people familiar with the matter.

The Journal reported in March that lawmakers may have spent daily cash stipends for overseas travel on unauthorized expenses. The Office of Congressional Ethics, which reviews potential rules violations and recommends investigations to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, has referred the matter to the committee, the Journal reported Monday.

The stipends are for meals, cabs and other travel expenses, but lawmakers told the Journal that they have kept excess funds or spent them on gifts. There is no system for lawmakers to return extra funds.

Reps. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) told the Journal for the March article that they had not returned excess money in the past. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) said he did not know whether he kept extra money because he did not have receipts.

The Journal, citing several lawmakers who have been contacted by ethics investigators, reported Monday that Wilson, Hastings, Butterfield, Aderholt and Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas) are under examination.

Former Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) told the newspaper that he was also contacted, but the inquiry was dropped after he retired from Congress in May. The ethics committee has jurisdiction only over current Members.

Darrell Jordan, a spokesman for Aderholt, confirmed to the Journal that his office was contacted by ethics investigators.

Pepper Pennington, a spokeswoman for Wilson, said the Member used the stipend to buy marble goblets for less than $2 each in Afghanistan. “Focusing on personal purchases under $2 while over 14 million Americans are out of work does not reflect the priorities of the American people,” she said.

The other lawmakers didn’t return calls from the Journal seeking comment.

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