It’s common to hear of federal legislators traveling abroad on official business to meet with foreign leaders. Because this practice has a variety of significant implications for the execution of U.S. foreign relations, I decided to look into the extent to which Wisconsin’s representatives and senators have been involved over the last five years. My sources were WikiLeaks cables and public reports on publicly and privately financed foreign travel. While it’s not always easy to identify the purpose of any given trip, detailed accounts are often contained in State Department cables, which you can access by performing keyword searches on WikiLeaks’s website. My findings are below. As you’ll notice, Wisconsin’s legislators traveled abroad, if at all, only in 2009–not a single representative or senator reported foreign travel on public funds from 2010-present. I wasn’t able to obtain information on privately-funded travel for the last four years, so it’s possible that some travel still occurred during the period, but the drop-off in publicly-funded travel is striking. And a little bizarre. Perhaps it’s pure coincidence. Or maybe it’s a response to fiscal austerity? I don’t know.
|Legislator||Date of Travel||Funding Source||Country|
|Gwen Moore||6/27/09-6/28/09||Public||Bosnia & Herzegovina|
|Gwen Moore||8/19/09-8/23/09||Public||South Africa|
|Jim Sensenbrenner||4/13/09-4/18/09||Private||El Salvador|
|Ron Kind||11/14/09-11/15/09||Public||United Kingdom|
Also, at the link below you can download a spreadsheet containing data on congressional foreign travel for all members of the House and Senate for 2009. Although a few years old, the data still provide a pretty good sense for who is traveling, where they are going, which committees have the most frequent fliers, and how often legislators are traveling on public and private funding.
The spreadsheet is generally self-explanatory, but here are a few additional points of clarification:
(1) Most of the dates reported in Column C are the actual travel dates. In some cases, however, the actual dates were unavailable, which forced me to use the dates of the Congressional Record reports in which the travel was disclosed. I signified the dates of these reports with an asterisk (e.g., “*09/09/09” would mean that the travel was reported in a document dated September 9th, not that the travel actually occurred on that date). Dates without asterisks are actual travel dates.
(2) The Congressional Record generally does not report the destination country for travel undertaken for the House or Senate Intelligence Committee. At best, the reports list only the destination continent (e.g., Europe) for such travel, and Column D reflects this practice.
(3) Columns G through K are all of the committees on which the corresponding legislator served at the time of the reported travel.
(4) The main spreadsheet tab is composite data, meaning data from public reports on publicly funded travel, public reports on privately funded travel, and the WikiLeaks cables. The second tab separates out all of the privately funded travel.
Special thanks to Sam Berg, Nick Hagman, Margaret Krei, and Katie Linn for excellent research assistance. Cross-posted at Ryan Scoville’s blog.