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U.S. attorneys spend over travel allowances
‘C’ (Christie) 1 named by IG
Question of the Day
Some of the nation’s top federal prosecutors — including a former U.S. attorney now serving as governor of New Jersey — have been skirting travel regulations, opting for accommodations well above the government’s budget with little or no justification, the Justice Department’s inspector general says.
A report issued Monday by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said Republican Gov. Chris Christie, not identified by name but only as “U.S. Attorney C,” most often exceeded government rates for travel spending without adequate justification during a review period from 2007-2009.
Investigators focused on the cases of five U.S. attorneys — also not identified by name but similarly assigned letters — who “exhibited a noteworthy pattern of exceeding the government rate without appropriate justification.”
The IG’s report says “U.S. Attorney C” booked a room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington at a cost of $475 per night — more than double the government rate of $233 per night for the District. He told investigators he chose the room because the hotel was the site of an early-morning speech he was scheduled to deliver — a justification the inspector general rejected as inadequate.
The report said U.S. Attorney C also booked a room at Nine Zero Hotel in Boston at a cost of $449 per night — again double the government rate in Boston of $220 per night. Investigators noted that during the Boston trip, he also spent $236 for a car service to chauffeur him the four miles to and from the airport.
Mr. Christie’s travel became an issue in last year’s New Jersey gubernatorial campaign after the Justice Department released records similar to those detailed by the inspector general under a Freedom of Information request.
His press secretary, Michael Drewniak, told Associated Press on Monday that “the governor thoroughly addressed this issue during the campaign, and I would refer you to his remarks then.”
While Mr. Christie campaigned for the governor’s office promising ethical integrity and to cut government waste, the Justice Department documents show he regularly spent beyond federal guidelines on business travel as U.S. attorney.
The records show that he billed taxpayers more than $400 a night for stays in luxury hotels and exceeded the government’s hotel allowance on 14 of 16 business trips he took in 2008.
While on the campaign trail, Mr. Christie defended the expenditures as ones made only when cheaper hotels were not available, Justice Department spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz noted at the time that “the government rate is not a suggestion, it’s a guideline.”
The IG’s report noted that the majority of the 208 people who served in one of the country’s 93 U.S. attorney positions from 2007 to 2009 complied with regulations. It also said that during the review period, U.S. attorneys “claimed reimbursement for lodging above the government rate for 20 percent of their overnight travel.”
In many cases, it said, the U.S. attorney doing the traveling or a subordinate approved the expenses. Often when a U.S. attorney exceeded the government rate, no reason was provided.
The report said 19 U.S. attorneys exceeded government rates on 11 or more trips, accounting for more than 40 percent of all such violations.
Another prosecutor, U.S. Attorney D, attended conferences in San Diego, Fort Lauderdale and Anaheim, Calif. However, in each case, the public official stayed at taxpayer expense at a hotel other than the one hosting the conference and each time at greater cost.
For example, instead of staying at the hotel hosting the Anaheim conference for $143 per night, U.S. Attorney D stayed at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach, a AAA five-diamond hotel approximately 20 miles from Anaheim, for $349 per night.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Matthew Cella is The Washington Times’ Metro editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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