Press "Enter" to skip to content

GOP Legislators Take 40% of Travel Budget for Partisan ALEC Trips

Last updated on 2014.05.15

To inform its discussion of the Legislature's travel policy, complete with ALEC subsidy, the Legislature's Executive Board Thursday got to review how much taxpayer money they've spent so far this year on out-of-state travel. Here's how much we've paid for legislator travel to conferences from July 1, 2013, to May 6, 2014:

SDLeg OutState Mtg Costs FY14 to May 6 2014 SDLeg OutState Mtg Costs FY14 to May 6 2014 col2

82 trips, average $1,430 a pop... that's $117,260. That's not so bad... until you count up the $42,520 that was spent on the blatantly ideological ALEC trips. Add in average costs for the reimbursements still pending for Reps. Campbell, Qualm, and Stalzer and Senator Lederman, and those ALEC costs will constitute over 40% of the FY14 out-of-state Legislative travel bill. (And hey, Dan! The ALEC States and Nation Policy Summit was back in December. The Legislature is adopting an even tougher version of the new Benda rule: while other state agencies are supposed to have those reimbursement requests in within 60 days of your trip, the new Legislative travel policy says 30 days. Get with the program!)


  1. R.A.Johnson 2014.05.10

    Well Sen. Lederman.anwered that no taxpayer monies were used during ALEC..further..a lot of these people tout conservatism values and lower taxes. How would that be possible if they keep spending and traveling on the taxpayer? It appears the Haggers keep it all in the family. Revelatory...

  2. mike from iowa 2014.05.10

    Must be like the perfect scam. The koch bros don't even have to pay the way for wingnuts to flock to symposiums to learn how to hand over even more monies to the koch bros.

  3. mike from iowa 2014.05.10

    Try a little harder,South Dakota. Trained seals in Alaska's wingnut controlled legislature give 2 billion(approximately) bucks back to the big three oil companies every year and Alaska gets nothing-zero,nada,zip,zilch-in return, Except for budget deficits now.

  4. Douglas Wiken 2014.05.10

    Perhaps these nomadic legislators might spend a bit more time finding out what actual South Dakotans want the legislature to do and what new ideas are floating around in the boondocks independent of Koch and the fossil fuels industry, insurance industry, health industry lobbyists.

  5. grudznick 2014.05.10

    What's really offensive is that the legislatures pay themselves $110 a day to eat and now they're going to pocket all that money and get fed $23 prime rib lunches every day for free.

    That, Jack, is completely offensive and every one of the bums needs to be voted out.

  6. grudznick 2014.05.10

    I had somebody look it up for me. They pay themselves $129 a day to eat. Plus $23 prime rib lunches. Can you even imagine the kind of breakfasting the legislatures is going to be able to do?

  7. Roger Cornelius 2014.05.10

    Damn! Didn't I hear that Republicans are fiscal conservatives?

    Oh yeah! That only applies to cutting or not allowing services to their constituents.

  8. MJL 2014.05.10

    Mr. Grudz, you have a link for that $129 food perdiem per day? I would like to check it out.

  9. JeniW 2014.05.10

    The pathetic part of all this travel is that none of the legislators, that I know of, share what information they learned/received with the people that they are suppose to be representing.

    I think it is fine and good that they have a good time while they are attending conferences or whatever, but they are there to work and learn. There does not seem to be any accountability other than filling out a form to be reimbursed, or to have conference fees paid for in advance, etc.

  10. grudznick 2014.05.10

    That does seem like a pretty good deal, larry, but I think they could send you and me and Bill for that amount and get a bigger bang for the buck, don't you?

  11. larry kurtz 2014.05.10

    Cory: how much to unmask grud?

  12. Steve Hickey 2014.05.10

    Grud- the amount you refer to includes hotel. I lose money going to Pierre especially when my car needed a $2000 fix cuz is froze up one 16 degree below zero trip in January. That nickel a mile goes a long way. Most of the time we graze at receptions for meals and eat finger food standing up. Most of us pass or just nibble so we don't gain ten pounds during session.

  13. grudznick 2014.05.10

    So, Mr. Hickey, you are actually adding $23 a day to your meetings to eat prime rib for lunch when you are already getting $129 dollars to eat and stay and you get free food daily at lobbiest things. Somebody makes a list of all the lobbiest things you can eat at and there are full meals. And if you don't want to gain ten pounds don't eat $23 lunches.

    I am aghast, sir, that you would add $23 lunches to your already fat bellies. Aghast. This will haunt all of you like a garbage truck down the here-comes-the-bride aisle.

  14. grudznick 2014.05.10

    Mr. Hickey, how many trips do you take where you are paid a nickel a mile?

  15. Donald Pay 2014.05.10

    Why we pay for legislators to go to ALEC involves criminal conduct by ALEC. ALEC was on the verge of being charged with bribery and other crimes in some states for paying legislators to come to their conference. So, when they stopped bribing folks they had to find another way.

    JeniW points out a real problem with travel to conferences, and a needed reform. It seems to me if you travel to conferences on the taxpayer dime, you ought to be required to attend a certain amount of seminars/meetings, take notes and share that information with all members of the body and with the public. It shouldn't be just a way to hobnob, play golf and drink.

    Actually, in Wisconsin one of the Legislators just settled a lawsuit requiring her to hand over her records collected at the ALEC conferences.

    When I was on the RC school board, I traveled to a number of conferences. Most of them provided good seminars on topics of real concern to school districts. I felt it was a duty to go to the seminar sessions, take notes and collect handouts so that they could be distributed in the packet that went out to fellow board members. These packets were public documents, so they were available as well to the public.

    Most of my fellow board members didn't do this. I'm not criticizing them, but I thought it a duty to bring back some value for the money the taxpayers spent. I would like this to be legislated. If the taxpayers pay for you to go to a conference or meeting you ought to bring back to the taxpayers the results.

  16. grudznick 2014.05.10

    Mr. Pay, I know you and I don't see eye-to-eye even when I have a bucket to stand upon and some fellows to boost me, but I think you might have something here. Do you think some of these people in the legislatures go to these trips and just golf and eat for free (getting paid $129 a day to eat) and then don't even bother to attend meetings and learn things?

  17. Steve Hickey 2014.05.10

    The per deim is $110 and includes hotel . I have nothing to do with the $23 and as I understand it's not automatic. It's up to $23 if there is an occasion a lunch is needed. I can't imagine what that occasion would be. Relax . Tax payers are getting a sweet deal with legislator pay and reimbursements.

  18. grudznick 2014.05.10

    Mr. Hickey, did you vote yes on that bill I posted above that sets your per diem at $129?

    I hope you enjoy your prime rib lunch you are getting paid twice for.

  19. Rorschach 2014.05.10

    grudznick, Rep. Hickey makes exactly 1 trip to Pierre and back for 5 cents a mile. The rest of his trips are paid at the higher state rate. But then you knew that already. Funny how Rep. Hickey focuses on that one low paid trip in his comments and doesn't mention the rest of the higher paid trips to Pierre and back.

    The thing is, many legislators lose money going to Pierre for 2 months because they take a leave from their regular higher-paying jobs back home. Yes it's by choice, but that doesn't justify them going 15 years without a pay raise. This extra per diem was added because nobody had the intestinal fortitude to raise legislative pay, so they raised the daily expense reimbursement rate instead to get some extra money through a different channel. Kind of the legislative equivalent of what Rep. Hickey editorializes against. Why am I telling you what you already know, grudzzz? Maybe 'cuz not everybody else knows.

    Back to the topic of this post. I wonder if there is some correlation to show whether the legislators who take more trips on the taxpayer dime are more effective legislators than the folks who don't take vacations at taxpayer expense. Do more trips translate to more results?

  20. grudznick 2014.05.10

    Here is what my granddaughter says is the vote on the bill to set the meal money to $129 even in July that Mr. Hickey says is only $110. Mr. Hickey voted yes to raise it to $129. Is he lying or is he not paying attention?

    It is a fact that Mr. Hickey voted to increase his daily meal money and now he and the other legislatures are going to get free $23 lunches they don't even have to pay for with that meal money.

    Mr. Hickey. You disappoint me.

  21. Rorschach 2014.05.10

    PS: As I look at the list of travelers I don't see Rep. Hickey on it.

  22. grudznick 2014.05.10

    Mr. Rorschach, he's apparently too busy eating free $23 prime rib dinners back in Pierre and pocketing his increased meal money that he doesn't even have to spend to take golf junkets to Las Vagas and Bermuda.

  23. Steve Hickey 2014.05.10

    I forgot it was raised. So, shoot me. Last I looked it was $110. I have the intestinal fortitude to raise the pay but others don't. Haven't taken any trips and have no plans too. Good night.

  24. Rorschach 2014.05.10

    The Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda is a lovely resort. Do legislators really get sent there, Grudz?

  25. grudznick 2014.05.10

    Sleep well on your free $23 prime rib filled belly, Mr. Hickey, and keep that $129 in your wallet.

    Talk about a fat tax-payer deal these fatcat legislatures are getting. Sheesh. Then they "forget".

  26. Rorschach 2014.05.10

    Prime rib. Yuck! I'll have the moo cooked out of my steak, thanks. I wouldn't eat prime rib if they paid me. I'd rather eat those little cocktail weenies, meatballs and three kinds of cheese with salami on crackers. Ummm! Time to raid the fridge.

  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.10

    Rep. Hickey and his colleagues should be reimbursed for every penny of expense they incur in serving the people of South Dakota. They should not be reimbursed for attending the political propaganda parties of corproate fascists like ALEC.

  28. John 2014.05.10

    Cory, perhaps you and the ALEC apologists will appreciate this cartoon symbolizing the Koch's selfish monied interests diverge from the public interest.

    Returning to the topic it's unfortunate that the SD legislature is too numerous and is inadequately salaried. A 39-senator only legislature should receive a teacher-salary equivalent and receive mileage and per-diem at the state executive branch employee rate -- nothing more, nothing less.

  29. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.11

    John, that's an excellent cartoon. Check out the accompanying article: the Kochs and ALEC are attacking solar power by advocating a new tax. Tea Partiers hate new taxes... and they kind of like independent power. Combine that with this story, about ALEC co-opting SD tax dollars for fatcat travel, and you get a possible recipe for making our conservative friends realize they have common cause with us liberals against the biggest threat to their liberty, the crony capitalists.

    And John, I wouldn't mind pegging the legislators' salaries to the lowest full-time teacher salary in the state.

  30. mike from iowa 2014.05.11

    If teachers only got paid for 9-30 day months at $129+$23 for meals per day that would be just over $41,000 per year.

  31. William Beal 2014.05.11

    There's golf involved?

  32. grudznick 2014.05.11

    Plus $10,000 extra for a couple of months in the winter, Mr. Mike from Iowa. That's $51,000.

    Mr. H, the good Reverend and his brothers and sisters are double dipping on their meal money. That's not looked well upon by us citizens.

  33. mike from iowa 2014.05.11

    The standard complaint about teachers,Grudz,is that they only work 9 months and have the summer months off. It doesn't work that way,but that is the most common complaint I've heard.

  34. larry kurtz 2014.05.11

    Go to year-round school and pay teachers $70,000.

  35. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.05.12

    In fact, there is a direct correlation between legislator pay and teacher pay. You'll find it here:

    It must be there, somewhere. Seriously! Take a look.

  36. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.12

    Not worth it, Larry. Neither the South Dakota Legislature nor school should operate year-round. School should run from Labor Day to Memorial Day. Children should then have the responsibility to figure out how to use their time during the summer, while we teachers all read, take classes, and prepare for the next school year.

Comments are closed.