Pols Lived High on the Hog at Copenhagen Climate Talks

Published February 14, 2010

Taxpayers paid a heavy price for the failed climate-change talks in Denmark, according to newly released reports detailing more than $500,000 in travel expenses for lawmakers, their staff, and experts to attend. The expenses include six days of lodging for some lawmakers who stayed only two days at a posh, five-star hotel.

Global warming activists hoped the summit, sponsored by the United Nations and held in December, would spur an international agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, world leaders approved a nonbinding declaration on climate change decried by environmentalists as too tame.

Documentation provided by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office in late January shows a total of $553,564 in travel expenses for 61 representatives and other who attended the talks on the taxpayers’ dime. The list includes Pelosi (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

In total, the group of about two dozen lawmakers spent $101,338 on lodging and dining at the five-star Copenhagen Marriott Hotel.

Lower Prices Online
David Williams, vice president of public policy for Citizens Against Government Waste, a Washington-based watchdog organization, said he could book airfare and lodging in Copenhagen online for much less than House leaders negotiated.

“It’s ludicrous to think that a semi-intelligent person, which I’m assuming members of Congress are, couldn’t pay the same thing,” he said.

Williams said Pelosi should have released more detailed copies of the travel reports. CAGW had the same beef with congressional disbursements for the third quarter published online in November, which contained vague line-item descriptions.

“It’s a great start to see the dollar amount, but let’s see the details of the expenditures,” he said.

Lawmakers in the Dark
North Carolina’s first district congressman, Democrat G. K. Butterfield, was one of the lawmakers attending the summit. In a statement, Butterfield said members weren’t aware of the costs prior to the trip and that House leaders made the travel arrangements.

“Members have since been told that the seemingly high cost of lodging was the result of the hotel requiring a minimum of six nights, totaling $3,960 per room,” Butterfield said. “We have also been told that delegations were assigned to specific hotels by conference organizers, and that delegations from around the world had the same issue with hotel requirements.”

The cost for the entire U.S. delegation to attend was much higher than amounts in the documentation released by Pelosi. CBS News found 59 House and Senate staffers flew commercial to Copenhagen, totaling $408,064.

“Add three military jets—$168,351 just for flight time—and the bill tops $1.1 million—not including all the Obama administration officials who attended: well over 60,” CBS reported.

“You had some staffers who were there 10 or 11 days,” Williams said. “There was no reason to send so many people, regardless of what you believe about climate change.”

David N. Bass ([email protected]) is associate editor of Carolina Journal in Raleigh, North Carolina, where a version of this article first appeared.