From today’s Chronicle:
According to the complaint filed by Dave Palmer, a California-based ethics watchdog, Taylor has used his campaign/officeholder account to pay for $31,952 worth of travel expenses, including 90 airfares, 12 hotel bills, 5 conference registration fees and a car rental - all of which Taylor also billed to the state.
The story says that Straus called for the Legislature to undertake ethics reform when it convenes in January. I’m for that – but why wait? He has known double-billing was a problem since the revelation that Joe Driver double-billed more than $17,000 in travel expenses. Can’t he just have House Administration chair Charlie Geren get on the job now? Audit the accounts. Find the right software. Amend House rules in January to require that all members’ travel expenses and reimbursements be posted online simultaneously with their posting on the members’ accounts. It can’t be that hard. We’re only talking about 150 people.
The current practice is rife with loopholes. Members are basically on the honor system. According to the Chronicle, “It is not possible to verify whether Taylor repaid his campaign account because lawmakers are not required to disclose repayments from state travel reimbursements back to their campaign or officeholder accounts.”
Taylor told the Chronicle that he repays his campaign account after receiving a check from the state. But how do we know this is true, since (a) disclosure is not currently required and (b) the Chronicle found that “all Taylor’s political contributions and expenses since arriving in the Legislature in 2003 shows a cash-on-hand balance that is roughly $30,000 less than it would be had all the travel reimbursements been repaid.”
Where is the accountability?