The campaign cash express: Mapping the travel of your legislator

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It’s a bird! It’s a plane!

But it’s not Superman.

More likely it is your Texas state legislator jetting to an exotic locale.

Last week The Texas Monitor examined some specific trips taken by lawmakers who dipped into their campaign finance accounts to pay for their travel — and to stay in some very fancy resorts.

Read that report here: Tapping campaign cash pays for lawmakers’ exotic trips, resort stays

It’s completely legal, and some travel is necessary and justified. But some of the trips raised questions for us.

For example, we looked at former state Sen. Troy Fraser, whose political donors paid the bill for his travel when he jetted off with his wife on a trip to Central America in 2010.

Fraser spent more than $1,600 on plane tickets to Costa Rica trip, and $562 for a night at The Springs Resort, which describes itself on its website as a “luxury hotel” with a “spectacular view of the Arenal Volcano, natural hot and cold springs, five unique dining experiences, and an impressive full service Spa.”

But Fraser wasn’t only a fan of Costa Rica.

From Florida to Spain to Norway to Great Britain to Turkey, Fraser’s travel would put both Carmen Sandiego and Dora the Explorer to shame, as the map below shows.

Fraser has not returned a request for comment.

The Republican from Horseshoe Bay has not been the only globetrotter using campaign finance cash to fund out of state and out of county travel.

Here are some examples of trips taken over the past decade funded by political donors:

Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas —  Miami, Aspen, Tampa, New Orleans, Turkey, Washington DC, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Chicago, San Diego, Boston, Vail, Denver, Seattle, and Cuba.

Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton — San Francisco, Washington DC, Las Vegas, Boston, Albuquerque, Phoenix, New Orleans, Boston, Minneapolis, Seattle, San Diego, Anchorage, Tel Aviv, Panama, and Amsterdam.

Helen Giddings, D-DeSoto — Philadelphia, Washington DC, South Africa, Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, Denver, and Charlotte.

Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio — Minneapolis, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Wyoming, Canada, San Diego, Seattle, Los Angeles, Jordan, Israel, and Egypt.

John Smithee, R-Amarillo — San Diego, Washington DC, Salt Lake City, Chicago, Wyoming, Canada, Boston, and San Francisco.

Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood — Washington DC, San Francisco, San Diego, New Orleans, Panama City,  Charleston, and Los Angeles.

Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas — Nashville, Minneapolis, Providence, Denver, St. Louis, Savannah, Phoenix, New Orleans, Washington DC, and Denver.

Take a look at where legislators have landed across the globe below:

Some of these trips are fact-finding in nature or campaign-related. Other travel stretches a bit — sometimes quite a bit — the idea that some of these jaunts are campaign related.

Some lawmakers have used campaign contributions to attend then-President Barack Obama’s White House holiday party, or to attend a Baseball Hall of Fame event. One used his campaign money to attend a college reunion in Boston.

What do you think?

We made a list of all the legislators currently sitting in office, as well as their out-of-state travel paid for by political campaign donations.

Click here to go through the list: Lawmaker travel using campaign money

See anything that we should examine more closely? Let us know.

Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or at 832-844-0289.

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