in Houston, Texas
Texas Rep. Solomon Ortiz' use of Congressional travel stipends under investigation
Tuesday, Aug 31, 2010, 11:38AM CST
By Lee Ann O'Neal

The Wall Street Journal reports today that Rep. Solomon Ortiz has been contacted by House investigators who are looking into the use of overseas travel stipends, according to lawmakers who were also contacted. This follows the newspaper's reporting in March that stipends had been used for unauthorized purposes, and that some lawmakers were apparently ignorant of the rules governing use of the money.

Congressional rules say the daily travel funds, called a per diem, must be spent on meals, cabs and other travel expenses. But when lawmakers travel, many of their meals and expenses are picked up by other people, such as foreign officials or U.S. ambassadors. That can leave lawmakers with leftover money. 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.
The articles do not accuse Ortiz, a Democrat whose district includes Corpus Christi, of any specific wrongdoing but quote his suggestion that it's routine for lawmakers on a trip to spend some of their allotment, then pocket the remainder. Some lawmakers (none noted from Texas) provided records indicating they return the difference to the U.S. Treasury.
 
The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, which is conducting the investigation, is barred under House rules from making its findings clear until after the November election. The newspaper reports that the subjects of the investigation are split cleanly along party lines, three Democrats, three Republicans.
 
The use of taxpayer-funded travel by public officials has been in the news, with a California activist calling attention to lawmakers who pay for expenses related to their work in Austin from campaign funds while still accepting the taxpayer-funded $168 per diem. Dave Palmer alleges wrongdoing by 34 Houston and San Antonio legislators and filed complaints with the Travis County district attorney and the Texas Ethics Commission earlier this month, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
 
In a separate matter, an Associated Press investigation found that state Rep. Joe Driver, R-Garland, had double-billed the state and his campaign account for at least $17,431.55 in travel expenses since 2005.
 
Lee Ann O'Neal can be reached at 713-980-9777 or at leeann@texaswatchdog.org.
Comments
Brad
Tuesday, 08/31/2010 - 02:49PM

I can't wait to vote against this crook. He is also a coward who voted for the OBAMACARE nightmare and then refused to return home and answer for his actions.

Bryan
Tuesday, 08/31/2010 - 09:11PM

If the "honorable" congressman gets indicted and convicted, will the Ortiz center get renamed?

big_red
Wednesday, 09/01/2010 - 09:28AM

This guy has been in Washington way too long. South Texas deserves better.

Tim
Friday, 09/10/2010 - 09:15PM

Yes he is a career politician who needs to go. Another apparent example of a lawmaker claiming he didnt know the laws.

Your Friendly Neighbor
Tuesday, 10/26/2010 - 05:36PM

If only there was better options to pick from in this race. Farenthold: I want someone who actually knows what they're doing. Mishou?...Mishou Who? (any logical voter would pick Mishou over Farenthold however)

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