-- Stuart Carlson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Spivak and Bice:
Sensenbrenner still traveling on your dime
There he goes again.
Travelin' Jim Sensenbrenner has made it near the top of yet another congressional perk list.
And this time it's the taxpayers picking up the tab so the multimillionaire Republican can see the world
"It's a wonder he has the time to stay in Congress to vote," snapped Tony Raymond, co-founder of Political Money Line, a D.C. watchdog group.
Data compiled by the group shows that since 1994, Sensenbrenner has gone on junkets costing taxpayers $149,248, placing the Menomonee Falls congressman ninth among the 600-plus pols who have been in the House or Senate during that time.
Most recently, Sensenbrenner went on a weeklong trip costing just under $10,000 to visit Poland, Lithuania and Amsterdam in January.
Last year, he traveled to France for 10 days, a trip that again cost a little less than $10,000.
Over the years, he also has used tax dollars to see Vietnam, Russia, China and Istanbul, among other places.
No other member of the Wisconsin delegation comes close to matching Sensenbrenner for cavorting on the taxpayers' dime. U.S. Rep. Mark Green, the Republican candidate for governor, finished second in the delegation and 173rd overall for taking publicly funded trips worth $24,436, including two jaunts to Africa.
These fact-finding missions, of course, come on top of all of the worldwide excursions Sensenbrenner and his aides have gone on in recent years at the expense of lobbyists, corporations, non-profits and other private interests.
Another Political Money Line study found that since 2000, Sensenbrenner is No. 1 among all federal lawmakers in the total cost of the trips he has accepted from private sources. And earlier this month, yet another report said the combined value of the privately funded junketeering by the veteran Wisconsin congressman and his staff over the past five years placed his office 12th on Capitol Hill.
Overall, Sensenbrenner - often accompanied by his wife - has gone on 33 trips at a total cost to taxpayers and private groups of more than $266,000 since January 2000.
Not a bad perk for a guy who's an heir to the Kimberly-Clark fortune.
Asked specifically about his boss' taxpayer-funded globetrotting, Sensenbrenner chief of staff Thomas Schreibel responded with exasperation: "Here we go again."
Schreibel said Sensenbrenner had to travel more than others in the Wisconsin delegation because he has been the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee since 2000 and was the head of the House Science Committee before that.
"Travel is a part of the job," he said, "where members of Congress learn of problems that other countries are having and problems the United States is experiencing with other countries."
You do have to wonder why being Judiciary chair requires more travel than chairing any of the other many House committees. International Relations is one that comes to mind.