It was bad enough last month watching Washington politicians merrily
flying off to the U.N. climate change Conference of Parties in
Copenhagen (or COP-15 for short), ostensibly to draft a global warming
treaty, when all the players knew that no meaningful pact would result
and that the only sure outcome was that much energy would be squandered.
Now comes the sticker shock.
When CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson dug into the latest House
expenses filing for the climate confab, she found that the cost for a
hotel room for the congressional delegation of 15 Democratic and six
Republican members of Congress and 38 staffers was $2,200 per person per
day more than most Americans spend on their monthly mortgages. In
addition, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members flew on three
military planes, at an estimated cost of $168,000. Many staffers,
however, flew on commercial airlines, at fares ranging from $4,163 to
The tab for the House delegation not including the military planes
was $553,564. We still do not know the price tag for the 60-plus
administration officials who, like President Barack Obama, attended the
summit. Ditto the unknown bill for the two senators John Kerry,
D-Mass., and James Inhofe, R-Okla. and 30-plus Senate aides.
I asked Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill about the $2,200-a-day tab. "We
don't get to pick the hotel we stay in," he answered; the State
Department picks hotels for congressional delegations, and it chose a
five-star Marriott with a six-night minimum during the summit hence
the $4,406-per-room tab for a 48-hour stay. My journalist pal Ola Tedin
of Ystad, Sweden, suggested, "They would have found a better deal in
Malmo, Sweden," where many attendees stayed. No, I am told, the
delegation worked nonstop and didn't have time for the 35-minute train
As for the airfares, Hammill explained they are "government rate."
Government rate means that taxpayers fork over as much as $10,000 for a
flight that could be purchased online for $800. "Government rate," then,
is D.C.-speak for "money is no object."
No worries on the greenhouse gases spewed to fuel the trek. The House
bought "offsets" for the journey's emissions. Of course, that very act
explains why so many Americans have come to doubt global warming true
believers: Their great crusade is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,
yet they globe-trot to be seen with one another and produce meaningless
pieces of paper. Then they tell others that their exhaust fumes don't
stink because, like sinners purchasing indulgences, they offset their
vapor trails with other people's money.
Surely the best "offset" would have been for more Democrats to stay
home. And what were all those Republicans doing in Denmark? I get
Inhofe's parachuting into enviro territory to serve, as he likes to
style himself, as a one-senator "truth squad." Spokesman Matt Dempsey
noted that Inhofe "would prefer not to go" to an event he has dismissed
as "the biggest party of the year," but someone had to counter COP-15's
Surely some (or, better yet, all) of the six GOP House members James
Sensenbrenner, Joe Barton, Fred Upton, Shelley Moore Capito, John
Sullivan and Marsha Blackburn and their 10 committee staffers could
have stayed home.
It would have been a great photo op in contrast to all those global
warming enthusiasts ducking from the blizzard that they flew thousands
of miles to experience if House Republicans had held a low-carbon,
low-cost Skeptics Summit in D.C. at which they announced their refusal
to participate in a process that, if somehow magically successful, would
be harmful to the U.S. economy.
So you have two sets of big spenders. There are the U.S. officials who
were so busy being important at COP-15 that they couldn't be expected to
think about saving taxpayer dollars, and there are the Republicans who
generally opposed COP-15, but not enough to skip it.
The disconnect in this story doesn't end. Participants could have put
together a nonbinding treaty to try to halve emissions in 40 years by
phone or the Internet. But the circus always was more important than the
And you paid for it.