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Should taxpayers fund travel by politicians for fundraising or speaking events?

Updated on September 25, 2014

Recent news reports concerning travel by politicians and the cost involved raised some concerns. Politicians are often invited to speak at various events and in some cases the purpose for these events are fundraisers. Taxpayer dollars used to pay for these travel expenses should be discontinued and be labeled as an unethical expense.

I have no problem with politicians traveling to raise money for their political campaigns or the campaigns of their party but where I have a problem is taxpayers paying the trip. Individuals running for office usually have campaign funds to cover travel expenses to fundraising events. These funds are not taxpayer dollars which come from the treasury but are contributions from voters. In this respect it is both logical and an ethical use of funds.

Government should not be paying travel expenses to fundraising events even if it is for a politician’s political party. The same is true for speaking events when an individual who has a responsibility within government. In the public sector these kinds of expenses are covered by the organization or individuals conducting the event. The same should be true for government officials. This may raise some ethical issues with regards to receiving funds outside government but I believe there can be a distinction made between what is considered ethical or unethical. In fact there are ethical rules in place in both chambers of the legislature overseeing funds being received by politicians and there are financial reports which must be filed within specific timeframes.

Fundraising or speaking events where politicians are asked to visit should not use taxpayer dollars. Use of taxpayer funds for travel expenses of an elected or appointed individual in conjunction with their responsibilities should use taxpayer dollars but the quantity should be limited to necessary travel. Speaking or fundraising events would drastically change if those holding such events were tasked to pay the travel expenses of those they have invited. Granted there are many politicians who are no longer a part of the federal or state governments and somehow these expenses get covered either through the money they are paid or the organization covers the expenses.

The main thrust point to be made is tax dollars should not be spent for travel unless it is within the responsibilities and authority of a government entity official. The purpose must be one of necessity for the department or agency with respect to the mission identified for the organization. Tax dollars should be spent on government activities not fundraising. In addition speaking events should only be accepted if it is connected to the responsibilities and authority of the office or organization invited.

To answer the question posed in this article travel by politicians for fundraising or speaking events should not be paid for by the taxpayer. There may be some exceptions which have been identified above but they should be the exception not the rule. Ethical conduct by all government officials with regards to using taxpayer dollars should be directly related to government responsibilities. Fundraising events are not a government responsibility which is identified in the Constitution. Funding speaking events which are connected to the position being held such as the Executive Department Head may warrant some taxpayer expenditure but all speaking activity is not a government responsibility.


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