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Story Archives: Jet-setter Melancon
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Congressman Charlie Melancon of Napoleonville was one of 10 members of the House who spent New Year's 2008 on a junket that took the entourage from Washington, D.C., to the South Pole.
There were stops, or visits, along the way at the West Coast, Hawaii, American Samoa, New Zealand and McMurdo Station. Six spouses of the members of Congress tagged along, too, including Melancon's.
The trip cost U.S. taxpayers at least $103,000. That figure does not include the cost for airfare, which was difficult to determine since the members of Congress opted against flying commercial in lieu of using Air Force planes. Flight costs most likely lifted the price tag for the trip to roughly $500,000, based on figures the Department of Defense utilizes in calculating aircraft per-hour operating costs.
News of Melancon and Co.'s trip abroad surfaced in a report published in the Saturday/Sunday, Aug. 8-9, issue of The Wall Street Journal. The Journal pieced together information concerning Melancon and Co.'s excursion by reviewing public records of expenses members of Congress incur. Those records are not available on the Internet. Instead, those records can be accessed only if one is willing to travel to Capitol Hill to review them.
According to The Journal, the trip was led by Congressman Brian Baird of Washington state. Like Melancon, Baird is a Democrat.
According to The Journal, the members of Congress said the trip was necessary for them to learn about global warming and to monitor how federal funds are spent. That probably would explain why Baird took in a little scuba diving to take a peek at damage tourists cause coral reefs.
We have no objection to members of Congress traveling abroad if the travel is deemed vitally important to a member's duties in serving the people the member was elected to represent. We have no problem either with congressional leaders traveling abroad if their positions as leaders of the Congress require them to do it.
However, frolicking in the sun in Hawaii and layering up for a shuffle across the ice at the South Pole hardly seems vitally important to Melancon's role as a congressman representing our neighbors in the 3rd Congressional District in southern Louisiana. We suspect the fine folks of the 3rd District would agree for the most part.
Yet, Melancon's misuse of his position in making the trip abroad with nine other members of the House over the 2008 New Year's holiday signaled that Melancon apparently has developed a case of Potomac Fever.
We hope that's not the case, meaning we certainly hope he has not been in Washington long enough to believe the office he holds and the taxpayer monies that are available to him to operate it belong to him personally.
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