AUSTIN (AP) – Rep. Dan Flynn, a conservative and self-described expert in financial management, says he will audit his own spending habits after The Associated Press asked him about thousands of dollars in questionable travel expenses, including more than $11,000 that was billed both to taxpayers and his political campaign.
Flynn had no immediate explanation for the bills from fancy hotels and other costs, most from out-of-state travel, described on expense reports as political travel at one agency and then official state business at another. The former bank examiner, a North Texas Republican serving House District 2 which includes Hunt, Rains and Van Zandt Counties, said taxpayer reimbursements went straight into his personal account via direct deposit.
He said he was too busy traveling to determine if he kept the money or reimbursed the private account he used to pay for the travel. If private campaign funds are used to pay for travel and then a lawmaker gets taxpayer reimbursements for the same expenditures, rules require them to pay back the campaign account, officials say.
Otherwise, the lawmaker would be profiting from the travel.
“I am traveling and out of town. I am in the process of pulling records together and will conduct an audit,” Flynn said in an e-mail to the AP. He did not respond to subsequent requests for information about the expenditures. In the brief email, Flynn said he was confident he had reported the expenditures properly. He also noted that GOP House Speaker Joe Straus has proposed changing ethics policies — in part to keep lawmakers from double dipping.
“I believe we have reported all expenses and listed all donations as required,” Flynn said. “I will be supportive of appropriate changes.”
Another North Texas lawmaker, GOP Rep. Joe Driver of Garland, acknowledged that for years he collected reimbursements from taxpayers for travel he already had paid for using donated campaign money. He paid for luxury hotels, airline tickets, meals and conference registration fees with campaign funds and then submitted receipts for those same expenses to the state. Driver said he didn’t know he was doing anything wrong, but he reimbursed his campaign $49,426 after the AP revealed the double-dipping. Driver is now under criminal investigation.
Since 2006, Flynn billed at least $11,500 to two different entities — his campaign, funded by private donors, and the taxpayer-supported Texas House of Representatives, according to an AP investigation. There were at least seven trips in 2009 alone that produced the dual billings, most of them for lawmaker conferences held by National Conference of State Legislatures and the American Legislative Exchange Council.
In February he stayed at the Tucson El Conquistador Golf and Tennis Resort, billing $564.46 to his campaign and submitting that same receipt to get reimbursement for his travel from the state. In July he billed his campaign and the state $687.75 for a stay at Loew’s Hotel in New Orleans in July. In October it was the Four Seasons Resort and Club near Dallas.
Since 2006, there were hotel stays at the historic Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia, the Brown Palace Hotel & Spa in Denver, the San Francisco Marriott, the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle and the Westin Copley Place in Boston — all of them appearing as expenses on both state and campaign reports. There were also rent cars, conference fees and other travel expenses submitted to both entities.
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