Tester: Rehberg used official travel for vacations in Europe, South Pacific

2012-10-05T06:20:00Z 2012-10-08T13:48:41Z Tester: Rehberg used official travel for vacations in Europe, South PacificThe Associated Press The Associated Press
October 05, 2012 6:20 am  • 

HELENA – U.S. Sen. Jon Tester is accusing his opponent, Rep. Denny Rehberg, of abusing government travel during his tenure as a congressman to take lavish travel trips on the taxpayer dime with no good reason for doing so.

The Rehberg campaign countered that the trips were part of the congressman’s committee work, and accused Tester of trying to change the topic from other issues after a recent poll showed him slightly behind in one of the closest and most-watched Senate races in the country.

Rehberg has established a slim lead attacking Tester, the Democrat, as an ally of an unpopular president, and arguing the Big Sandy farmer has failed to be as independent as he originally promised.

Tester, who has worked to keep distance with the Obama administration on some key issues, is building on his campaign theme of portraying Rehberg as a career politician with few results. Tester says research shows Rehberg took 15 trips to nearly three dozen countries, with little to show for it.

The trips included many destinations in Europe, including Paris dinners with federal government contractors, along with outings to vacation hotspots in the Marshall Islands and South America.

“He is basically seeing the world on the taxpayer dime,” Tester said in an interview. “It just goes on, and on, and on.”

Tester said he has twice used the congressional delegation travel. He went to Kuwait and Iraq in 2007; and Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan last year. He argues both those trips were necessary to see the combat areas and to help shape his policies on the wars.

Rehberg has gone to the Middle East three times since being elected to Congress in 2000, according to research of travel records provided by Tester’s campaign.

In 2001, the congressman went to Denmark, Iceland and Norway. In 2002, congressional travel took him to Australia and New Zealand, and the following year Rehberg went to Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom. A 2004 trip to the South Pacific’s Marshall Islands and Micronesia preceded a trip later that year to the United Kingdom and Kazakhstan.

Tester argues 2005 trips were more egregious, starting off in February to Panama, Argentina, Brazil and Tobago. The very next month, Rehberg took a six-day trip to the France and Netherlands where itinerary records show dinners with federal contractors. In July, Rehberg visited Germany, Italy and France. And then in October of that year Rehberg went back to Europe to see Lithuania, Ukraine and Austria – followed in November by a trip to Germany and the Netherlands.

Trips tapered off, with one in 2006 to Africa, and one in 2007 to France, Norway and the United Kingdom. The last two congressional travel trips taken by Rehberg in 2008 were to Kuwait, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries.

The Rehberg campaign said the travel came as part of the foreign operations appropriations subcommittee that funds and oversees embassies. It said the congressman also promoted Montana trade, but did not offer specific examples.

“If Senator Tester really cared one bit about how taxpayer money is spent, he wouldn’t have rubber-stamped President Obama’s liberal agenda, under which we’ve seen billions upon billions of dollars in wasteful government spending that has failed to create the jobs he and Obama promised Montanans,” said Rehberg spokesman Chris Bond.

The trips, known as CODELs, were established for congressional fact-finding, education and oversight of programs, according to Rob Walker, an election law and government ethics attorney in Washington, D.C., who used to staff House and Senate ethics committees. He said the rationale behind them is that it is best to have congressional members better informed by facts on the ground.

But there have been some perceived abuses over the years, which led to tighter rules in 2010, Walker said.

Tester argues they shouldn’t be used to see tourist hot spots and to dine with federal contractors.

“The bottom line is, what did you really gain in knowledge that you couldn’t gain by just talking to these lobbyists back here?” Tester said. “What did you get out of it?”

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(20) Comments

  1. ds
    Report Abuse
    ds - October 06, 2012 10:45 pm
    Do you remember those town hall meetings? They were not meetings but excuses for Tea Partistas to hurl invective at Democratic Congressmen. You also seem to forget the many, many meetings Senator Tester held over the Forest Jobs bill? At the time that Tester was trying to get real compromise happening, Rehberg was doing push-polling on his paid-for-by-taxpayers newsletters.

    Hey, but it's all politics. The difference is that one of the candidates actually still farms while the other finds fulfillment in hobnobbing with the oil and gas profiteers.
  2. Roger
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    Roger - October 06, 2012 7:17 am
    If you want someone who will vote to confirm far-left anti-gun Supreme Court justices, turn over U.S. sovereignty to the United Nations, and write horrible mandated logging bills, then the fat man is your candidate. You are living in a fantasy world if you believe Rehberg should have monitored the amount of alcohol consumed. Not saying Rehberg is perfect, but unfortunately one usually has to vote for the lesser of two evils. And by the way, I don't believe your scary story.
  3. erlyirn
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    erlyirn - October 05, 2012 7:41 pm
    Oh poor Roger. A responsible person would have taken notice of how much alcohol was being consumed and taken the keys away so the sober one could drive re: Brian Holmes. Denny threw Barkus under the bus plain and simple. If you want the private sector to tack over SS, Medicare, medicade. and do the fine job they did with home loans then Denny and Mitt are your guys.l
  4. fomerliberal
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    fomerliberal - October 05, 2012 5:56 pm
    More junk to try to cover his record. Tester says he represents Montana 100% of the time. Then why did he vote yeah to comfirm Supreme Court justices Sotomayer and Kagan and also yeah for Eric Holder. All 3 are on record saying they don't believe citizens should be able to own guns. Tester also refuses to go on the Statewide radio show "Voices of Montana", guess he is afraid of getting a tough question. The there are his 2 CA big money fundraisers. I guess he is try to bring San Francisco/Pelosi values back to Montana.
  5. libertarian
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    libertarian - October 05, 2012 4:56 pm
    The real issue should be why does congress take some much time off. It's been reported that congress only works around 92 days a year. So for the 170,000 plus taxpayer salary, plus benefits, who wouldn't want a job in Congress. Now we have the election break, then the congress does not essentially meet to do important business until next year. I would wonder why both Tester and Rehberg approve of this waste of time, when this country is being destroyed by the two party system.
  6. walter12
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    walter12 - October 05, 2012 7:19 am
    The oldest Dem trick in the book. Tester is an loyal and faithful dog for this Obama. That is what the election is all about.
  7. Roger
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    Roger - October 05, 2012 7:02 am
    You're pretty much the poster boy for bad thinking, muralist - for example, Rehberg was not responsible for the boat wreck - he was not driving it. Yet you use the accident in an underhanded attempt to assassinate his character.
  8. LilyVonShtupp
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    LilyVonShtupp - October 05, 2012 5:35 am
    I've paid close attention to Tester since he was in the state senate. I agree with him on some things, and I flat out disagree with him on others. I will say this about him-- he is the most ethical politician I've seen, and he knows that compromise is necessary to keep the government running. Rehberg is one of the most UNethical politicians I've ever seen and is downright obstructionist if something doesn't benefit his own bank account. This alone, regardless of party affiliation, is why I'm voting for the Senator.
    Rehberg is a Conrad Burns clone.
  9. MTNimrod
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    MTNimrod - October 04, 2012 9:33 pm
    You call yourself "montanamuralist" but then you say, "But you Montana fools will vote him in....".

    So where are you REALLY from and what makes you think any REAL Montana cares what you think?
  10. MTNimrod
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    MTNimrod - October 04, 2012 9:31 pm
    Can't you masochists find a way to inflict pain on yourselves without getting all the rest of us caught up in it? I'm no Rehberg fan, but supporting this failed administration defies all logic and reason.

    But, then, logic and reason aren't what brought us the four-year debacle called "Obama-Biden".
  11. Helen mo
    Report Abuse
    Helen mo - October 04, 2012 8:36 pm
    I'm right there with you montanamuralist!!! Good posts! Tester, Obama 2012!
  12. ma80
    Report Abuse
    ma80 - October 04, 2012 8:33 pm
    Insurance companies are in business to make a profit, this is not a bad thing, nor are insurance salesmen akin to Satan. There is also a big difference between auto insurance and health insurance. Auto insurance,"mandated" by the state, is done to provide some basic coverage for bodily injury and property damage to the injured party should a driver be at fault in an accident. The state only mandates that you have it to provide at least a basic amount of protection to people who get hit in an accident. Health insurance has nothing to do with auto insurance, and operates in a totally different way. Also, please be aware enough to know that neither candidate is as bad as the other would make it seem or as good as they make themselves seem.
  13. PelosiGalore
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    PelosiGalore - October 04, 2012 7:35 pm
    Duhney, Rove, Faux, Bachmann, Citizens United, Boner, racists. There montanamurilist, I just summed up your rambling talking points that have nothing to do with the stories. Good job.
  14. thepalehunter
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    thepalehunter - October 04, 2012 7:32 pm
    How dare he mention Rehberg's corruption. How dare he.
  15. montanamuralist
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    montanamuralist - October 04, 2012 5:35 pm
    That wil be valid as soon as I hear you guys complaining about Boner and his travel...and this is not a cheap shot. I am glad to know where my taxpayer dollars are going to these rich boneheads that travel on my money and then send my kids to war and support it like Rehberg did...think it is nice to know what a hypocrite we have as a Congressman...just like his racist suipporters
  16. montanamuralist
    Report Abuse
    montanamuralist - October 04, 2012 5:33 pm
    Of course Jon should bring this up. Sorry if it irritates you anti Obamacare crowd in the audience who want to leave the lower income folks dead on the street rather than get healthcare. Before you come unglued, maybe you want to think about a few facts...yes I said facts not spin like your Rove and Faux News clones gove you. ( if thinking is possible for you right wing clowns)Duhney also wants to cut Medicare and Social Security so his friends in the insurance industry ( he was an insurance salesman at one time you realize...right??) can continue to overcharge folks and leave them in the cold when it comes to health care and retirement. Leave all that aside and look at Duhney's support of Citizens United. For you Constitutional experts out there on the right who are Bachmann fans....that is the Supreme Court ruling that allows unlimited campaign dollars from corporations and PACs to come in this state without disclosing donors. Duhney favors buying elections, while Tester is opposed to the ruling. That is all any Montanan needs to know. Of course they can't see past their nose when it comes to healthcare.....don't seem to mind being mandated to have insurance for autos but not for healthcare. Should be our right to die in the street right??? Whether you can afford it or not! No, Denny is clearly on the side of his well to do supporters and wastes tax dollars on nice little trips overseas while many Montanans suffer back home. But you Montana fools will vote him in anyway and then wonder why nothing gets done. Oh sorry alot will get done. Another boat wreck on Flathead, more trips to see the world on taxpayers dime. I notice he has not been to Tahiti yet......
  17. DonaldM
    Report Abuse
    DonaldM - October 04, 2012 3:59 pm
    Jon, to prove that you aren't a hypocrite, let's start with Barack and the missus and the criminal abuse of Air Force 1, and her own plane. Then the rest of the Congressional Leadership-like Pelosi and her private Air Force plane to fly home every weekend.

    Cheap shot.
  18. Dub
    Report Abuse
    Dub - October 04, 2012 2:56 pm
    Pretty amazing that Tester brings this up. Shame on you Jon.
  19. dsrobins
    Report Abuse
    dsrobins - October 04, 2012 2:39 pm
    No surprise here. We all know Denny Rehberg is corrupt to the core.
  20. Cardiac
    Report Abuse
    Cardiac - October 04, 2012 1:04 pm
    Too bad Tester didn't use some of his travel budget to come back to Montana and host some town hall style meetings while his party was passing Obamacare without debate or input.
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