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POLITICO: Lugar To Repay Home State Hotel Expenses

This morning Politico posted a story on Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar’s residency woes, which have been catalogued in detail over at American Bridge’s VirginiaIsForLugars.com. In this latest development, Lugar is being forced to repay the United States Treasury $4,500 after it was brought to light that Lugar had improperly charged taxpayers for hotel bills in Indianapolis, his so-called “duty station” under Senate ethics rules. Using official funds to cover hotel costs within 35 miles of one’s duty station is in violation of Senate ethics rules.

For further details, check out Manu Raju’s story in Politico here. Excerpts are below:

Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar’s residency problems just grew more uncomfortable: He’s reimbursing the Treasury for erroneously billing taxpayers for a series of hotel stays in Indianapolis in recent years.

The long-serving Senate Republican said because of staff errors, taxpayer money was improperly used to pay for about $4,500 in hotel expenses over the past decade.

Lugar also tapped his Senate office account to pay about $70,000 in other hotel costs over the course of his 35-year career, his office said. But Lugar was allowed to use that account in those instances because the Senate was in session.

Lugar has come under withering criticism from his Republican primary and Democratic opponents for living outside the state since 1977.

He is now consulting with the Senate’s disbursement office to determine whether the reimbursements should be paid for out of pocket or through his reelection campaign account.

The latest snafu revolves around an obscure set of Senate guidelines requiring senators to certify his or her “usual place of residence” in their home state as a so-called duty station during periods of Senate adjournment. During those periods, a senator is not allowed to use official funds within the duty station’s region to cover hotel costs, a problem for Lugar since he no longer owns a home there. Lugar has certified his duty station to be at the Indianapolis house he sold in 1977 — the same property in which he’s currently registered to vote.

But previewing attacks from his opponents, Matt Thornton, a spokesman with the Democratic firm American Bridge 21st Century, which is tracking the race, said it’s a “shame” Lugar had to get “caught” to pay back taxpayers.

“The simple fact is this issue would never have happened if Lugar actually lived in the state,” Thornton said.