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Mar 29, 2012

CREW Calls On Senate Ethics Committee to Investigate Senator Lugar

Sen. Richard Lugar Official PhotoWashington, D.C. – Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called on the Senate Select Committee on Ethics to investigate the conduct of Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN).  Recent reports indicate Sen. Lugar violated Senate rules by improperly using Senate funds to pay for hotel expenses in Indiana during Senate adjournments and August recesses between 1991 and 2011.   

“After erroneously billing U.S. taxpayers for decades, Sen. Lugar’s shady activities are finally coming back to haunt him,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan.  “The Senate Ethics Committee should thoroughly investigate his travel expenses and, if warranted, sanction him accordingly.”

Senate travel regulations limit the expenses for travel related to official business that members may be reimbursed for with Senate funds.  The rules senators must follow, including reimbursement guidelines, are set out in the U.S. Senate Handbook, published by the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.  Oddly, while the Senate Ethics Manual is publicly available, the Senate Handbook is not.  In contrast, the House Committee on Administration posts the House Handbook on its website.  Accordingly, CREW also sent a letter to Senate Rules Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) requesting that the Senate Handbook be posted online and made available upon request. 

“While Sen. Lugar has admitted to violating Senate rules, it is not sufficient for senators to merely wait until they’re caught to own up to misconduct.  Further, ignorance of the law is rarely a defense in any other arena.  The Senate Ethics Committee has a responsibility to hold Sen. Lugar accountable for his actions” said Sloan.  “Moreover, it is ridiculous that the Senate hides its Handbook to prevent prying outsiders – like journalists and good government groups – from evaluating whether senators have violated the rules. Why should the Senate have its own secret law?  It’s time for the Rules Committee to tear down the curtain and make the Senate Handbook available to everyone.”

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