WSJ: Butterfield queried in probe

Published 1:15 pm Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Staff Writer

U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., of Wilson reportedly was one of six members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans — questioned over the alleged misuse of travel funds, according to The Wall Street Journal.
A congressional investigation centers on the members’ spending of leftover per-diem pay, the newspaper reported.
Butterfield has acknowledged keeping some of the travel money, according to the newspaper.
A call seeking comment from Butterfield was not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.
Statewide political watchdog Joe Sinsheimer read the WSJ report. He indicated the per-diem issue represents part of the culture in the nation’s capital.
“I think the travel per diem is an area that Congress has needed to clean up for a long time, and I hope the investigation into Congressman Butterfield’s behavior and others leads to much clearer rules and much tighter controls over that money,” Sinsheimer told the Washington Daily News.
He said it is unlikely the issue would result in congressional hearings or sanctions, but lawmakers probably would look at those cases and try to craft new rules governing per-diem pay.
An earlier WSJ story indicated some lawmakers have pocketed excess travel money from foreign trips as a way of making more money, Sinsheimer said.
Figures weren’t obtainable at once Tuesday.
“It’s a sign of the arrogance of the institution,” Sinsheimer commented. “In any other industry, people turn in their travel receipts and they get reimbursed to the penny, but in Congress you’re just given a lump sum and there is no accounting.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Larry Britt, chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party.
“The only remedy we have for things like this is to vote these people out of office and then hold the new people to a different standard than others have been held to in the past,” Britt said.
Told that the investigation also is honing in on Republicans, Britt added, “That’s why I say, it’s the way they think up there.”
Butterfield represents a portion of Beaufort County.
This latest report comes on the heels of criticism leveled at Butterfield by his Republican opponent, Ashley Woolard of Washington.
In late July, Woolard held a series of news conferences in which he accused the incumbent of taking “a political bribe” from U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y.
Woolard demanded that Butterfield return $4,000 given to his campaign by the National Leadership Political Action Committee affiliated with Rangel.
Woolard questioned whether Butterfield could fairly participate in a trial of Rangel by the House ethics committee on which he (Butterfield) serves.
“Like most people here in eastern North Carolina, I grew up with — people I work with, people I go to church with — we know this is wrong,” Woolard said Tuesday.
Early this month, Woolard called on the U.S. Department of Justice to look into Butterfield’s activities, and he renewed that call Tuesday.
“It’s just a continued pattern by G.K. Butterfield,” he said.
At last report, Butterfield was scheduled to address the executive committee of the Beaufort County Democratic Party at its meeting Sept. 11.
Attempts to reach officers in the Beaufort County Democratic Party were unsuccessful Tuesday evening.