Records indicate that Republican candidate Rep. Ron Paul, a champion of smaller government, was reimbursed twice for flights between Washington, D.C. and his district in Texas with campaign and taxpayer money.
Roll Call's Jonathan Strong found credit card statements and campaign records that indicate Paul received thousands of dollars in excess payments for eight flights between 1999 and 2009. The investigation could hurt his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, which is largely based on the Texan libertarian's promise to significantly cut down government spending.
The publication also found hundreds of other flight-related payments that appeared to have duplicate reimbursements, but they did not find enough evidence to confirm it.
Paul did not respond to requests for an interview. His office vehemently denied the Congressman intentionally received the extra money.
Spokesman Jess Benton told Roll Call it was possible that wholly inadvertent errors were made in a handful of instances, but insisted that absolutely zero taxpayer funds were ever misused.
The duplicate payments could have occurred because Congress has no way of checking if political action committees are reimbursing its members for the same costs being paid by taxpayers, who usually foot the bill for congressional duties. For each of the eight flights, Paul received a check by a pro-Paul organization like the Liberty Political Action committee, the Foundation for Rational Economics and Education and the Liberty Committee. He also received a payment from his congressional office for the same expenses.
Benton also said the eight flights may appear to show duplicative reimbursements because Congressman Paul's wife or a campaign staffer traveled with him. In such instances, the U.S. House would reimburse Congressman Paul's travel to D.C. for Congressional business, while his campaign or political action committee would reimburse his traveling companion's ticket. Benton wouldn't provide any more detail on the trips, blasting Roll Call for using stolen credit card records from Paul's office in Texas.
Roll Call found out about the duplicate reimbursements by matching statements for a corporate American Express card assigned to Ron Paul & Associates, Inc., to records filed to the Federal Election commission as well as quarterly disbursement statements published by the Chief Administrative Officer of the House.
The eight flights include a May 11, 2004 trip from Houston to Reagan National Airport departing May 17 that cost $323.60. Ten days later, Paul was reimbursed by the House. On June 19, Paul's campaign paid for the same flight. A similar instance happened for a Sept. 23, 2003 flight for $646.50.
More information about the investigation can be found here.
The Raw Story's David Edward notes that this isn't the first time the Texas Republican's travel style has been brought into question. An Associated Press report found that Paul doesn't skimp on the air fare, paying for first class tickets on all 31 round-trip and 12 one-way flights since May 2009.
Paul has yet to win a nominating contest in the race for the Republican nomination. However, he had a strong showing in Tuesday night's nonbinding Minnesota caucus, surpassing frontrunner Mitt Romney by about 10 points for second place below Rick Santorum. While no delegates were assigned during the event, the results show that Republicans are still debating alternatives to Romney.