CBS: Congressmen Spent More Each Day At UN Climate Summit 'Than Most Americans On Their Mortgage Payment'

January 26th, 2010 5:22 PM

"For 15 Democratic and six Republican congressmen, food and rooms for two nights cost $4,400 tax dollars each. That`s $2,200 a day, more than most Americans spend on their monthly mortgage payment."

So said CBS's Sharyl Attkisson Monday in a remarkable follow-up to her January 11 "Evening News" piece concerning the out of control spending by members of Congress at December's United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen. 

Anchor Katie Couric teased viewers as the program opened, "CBS News exposed it: a congressional junket to the climate summit in Copenhagen. Now we can tell you how much it cost taxpayers as we followed the money."

Minutes later, Attkisson sliced and diced well-known members of Congress for their irresponsible spending of other people's money (video embedded below the fold with transcript, h/t NB John D. Seymour):

COURIC: Earlier this month, Sharyl Attkisson exposed a congressional junket to the climate conference in Copenhagen, a delegation of more than 100 traveling on your dime. Tonight we have a better idea of just how many dimes it cost you. Once again, Sharyl follows the money.


SHARYL ATTKISSON, CBS CORRESPONDENT: There`s new light shed on the Copenhagen Climate Summit in Denmark and how much it cost you thanks to recently filed Congressional expense reports, official filings and our own investigation show at least 106 people from the House and Senate attended. Spouses, a doctor, a protocol expert and even a photographer. For 15 Democratic and six Republican congressmen, food and rooms for two nights cost $4,400 tax dollars each. That`s $2,200 a day, more than most Americans spend on their monthly mortgage payment.

We asked Congress and staff about whether they`re mindful it`s public tax dollars they`re spending. Many told us they never even see the bills or expense reports.

Congressman Henry Waxman is a key climate change player, shown here in Copenhagen. Last week we asked him about the $2,200 a day bill for room and food.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN, (D), CALIFORNIA: I can`t -- I can`t believe that. I can`t believe it but I don`t know.

ATTKISSON: But there it is right next to his name in black and white. The group expense report was filed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She wouldn`t talk about it when our producer tried to ask.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regarding the Copenhagen expense account, madam speaker ...

ATTKISSON: Pelosi`s office did offer an explanation for the high room charges. Those who stayed just two nights were charged a six-night minimum at the five star Marriott. One staffer says they strongly objected to no avail. You may ask how they`ll negotiate a climate treaty if they can`t get a better deal on hotel rooms. Total hotel, meeting rooms and a couple of thousand dollar a night hospitality suites topped $400,000. Flights weren`t cheap, either. 59 House and Senate staff flew commercial during the Copenhagen rush. They paid government rates. $5,000 to $10,000 each. Add three military jets and the bill tops $1.1 million, not including all the Obama administration officials who attended, well over 60. In fairness, many attendees told us they did a lot of hard work and laid the ground work for a future global treaty.

WAXMAN: It was awfully cold and I was there because I thought it was important for me to be there. I didn`t look at it as a pleasure trip.

ATTKISSON: But considering the size of the deficit and the fact that no global agreement on climate change was reached, critics question the super-sized U.S. delegation. More than 165, leaving the impression there`s dollars to burn. In this case, more than a million. Sharyl Attkisson, CBS News, Washington.

Brava, Sharyl! Brava!