Tea Party leaders are pressing Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) to release a list of the “other members of Congress” he says approved the extensive international travel of his executive assistant Kay Webber.
“I think it’s incumbent upon Sen. Cochran, since he has said that this is approved by other members of the United States Senate, to name which specific senators have approved his taking Kay Webber–who has no legislative responsibility–on these foreign junkets,” Kevin Broughton, the spokesman for Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund (TPPCF) and a native Mississippian, said in a phone interview. “Who are these specific senators from whom he sought approval and which senators gave approval?”
“It’s unbelievable how little transparency Senator Cochran believes taxpayers are entitled to from their government,” FreedomWorks spokeswoman Jackie Bodnar added in an email:
Cochran made it clear that he’s not running for the “debate team,” but he’s not running for the travel team either. I’d like to know, and Mississippians deserve to know, who specifically authorized this travel and when. Thad Cochran has already refused to be held accountable for his voting record by debating Chris McDaniel. Somebody has to be held accountable for these taxpayer-funded trips around the world.
The two groups’ call is in response to Cochran’s comments during an interview with local WAPT television’s Bert Case, in which Cochran said other members approved Webber’s travels.
“She travels at the invitation of the member of Congress who’s authorized to organize the trip, but other members of Congress will approve her when she is invited to go on a trip as being a necessary and valuable member of the staff team that accompanies the senators or congressmen,” Cochran said when Case asked who pays for Webber’s expenses.
Cochran did not during the interview name any of the “other members of Congress” he said approved Webber’s travels. Cochran’s spokesman, Jordan Russell, has not responded to a request for comment asking for a list of names of the other members Cochran says approved the travel.
Cochran narrowly lost his primary on June 3 to state Sen. Chris McDaniel. Since neither candidate received 50 percent of the vote, the race has headed to a runoff, in which most political prognosticators expect McDaniel to win. The runoff is on June 24, a week from Tuesday.
Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund and FreedomWorks are both backing McDaniel in the runoff and backed him in the primary.
Broughton added in his interview that he thinks it’s fair game to ask the other members of Congress who joined Cochran and Webber on many of these trips about who approved Webber’s CODEL (Congressional Delegation) travel:
I think the fair question to ask of these other members who have taken these CODELs is-with the staff that they choose to take-do those staff members have their areas of responsibility or issues of focus that are germane to the trip in question? I think the question is: Who are the senators who approved these trips for Ms. Kay Webber? And of the other senators who take these trips, do they take their executive assistants? Or do they take senior policy aides with some area of expertise germane to the individual trips?
This line of criticism, Broughton adds, is not anti-CODEL. He says it’s about being fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars. “You start from the presumption that CODELs serve a legitimate purpose,” he said. “I think it is fair, then, to inquire to see, then, what staff members make the trips.”