I wanted to confirm, or debunk, my hunch about how out of line 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson’s government-funded travel was, so I reached out to the governor, the chief justice, the attorney general — all of whom would have far more reason to leave the state than a solicitor — and the solicitor in Lexington County.
Hunch confirmed. Mr. Johnson spent more time traveling out of state from January 2016 through September 2017 (about 70 days) than the four of them spent — combined — for periods ranging from one to two years.
I deliberately confined my inquiry to government-funded travel, even though the governor and attorney general do a good bit of travel that’s paid for by their political campaigns or organizations whose events they attend. Such trips can sometimes create problems, but an entirely different type of problem than Mr. Johnson’s publicly funded travel, which is the topic du jour.
This is a less-than-perfect comparison, because the dates don’t match up. But getting all the details, for the same time periods, could have taken a couple of weeks for the officials to compile and very likely would have resulted in an avalanche of documents to review.
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And this quick-and-dirty comparison gives us a pretty clear indication of how outside-the-norm Mr. Johnson’s travel has been.
Gov. Henry McMaster (Feb 24, 2017-Feb 26, 2018)
Here’s what McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes told me:
Feb 23-26, 2018 (4 days): Gov. McMaster attended the National Governors Association and Republican Governors Associations’ winter meeting, Washington.
Jan 3, 2018: Gov. McMaster testified before the USTR/TPSC public hearing regarding the ITC’s recommended tariffs in the Section 201 case involving large residential washers, Washington.
Dec 4, 2017: Meeting with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross, Washington. And participated in the swearing-in ceremony of Ed McMullen Jr. as the U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Washington.
Dec 6, 2017: Gov. McMaster testified before the USTR, met with Peter Navarro, met with Mark Calabria, met with David Malpass, and two meetings with members of the congressional delegation, Washington.
Nov 14-16, 2017 (3 days): Gov. McMaster attended the Republican Governors Association’s annual conference, Austin, Texas.
Oct 19, 2017: Gov. McMaster testified at the U.S. International Trade Commission remedy hearing involving Samsung, Washington.
Sept 26, 2017: Meeting with Rick Perry, U.S. Secretary of Energy, Washington.
Aug 13, 2017: Gov. and Mrs. McMaster attended the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club and held four economic development meetings, Charlotte.
July 24-25, 2017 (2 days): Gov. McMaster participated in the RGA’s 201 Executive Roundtable Quarterly meeting, Aspen, Colorado.
June 28, 2017: Economic development announcement with Samsung Electronics officials, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Vice Minister Lee Inho, Washington.
June 19, 2017: Gov. McMaster participated in a speaking panel at SelectUSA and attended the SC Workforce Readiness Recognition with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Oxon Hill, Md.
June 15, 2017: Gov. McMaster participated in the Governors and Workforce of Tomorrow roundtable discussion with fellow governors and White House officials, attended a White House signing ceremony of a presidential executive order, and attended a working lunch with the Office of American Innovation and White House Intergovernmental Affairs Officials, Washington.
May 15-17, 2017 (3 days): Gov. McMaster attended the RGA’s Executive Roundtable quarterly meeting and corporate policy summit, Miami.
May 10, 2017: Gov. McMaster met with President Trump, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and Rick Dearborn, Washington.
Feb 24-27, 2017 (4 days): Gov. McMaster and Mrs. McMaster attended the National Governors Association and Republican Governors Association Winter meetings, Washington.
Attorney General Alan Wilson (2016-2017)
This is what I got from spokesman Robert Kittle:
The Attorney General did not have any out-of-state travel paid for by the Office in 2017, and there were no travel reimbursement requests submitted by the Attorney General to the Finance Department in 2017. Actually, the AG has not submitted an Office travel reimbursement request since 2014. Based on the mileage reporting documents, the Attorney General did not travel out-of-state in the state vehicle for government business in 2017.
As for 2016, he took two trips to Washington, D.C. for National Association of Attorneys General meetings and the Office purchased airline tickets for both of those meetings.
He flew to Washington on Sunday, Feb 21, 2016, and flew back Tuesday, Feb 23. Then he flew up on Nov 17 and flew back on Nov 18.
So zero out-of-state travel at government expense in 2017, and two trips to DC in 2016.
Chief Justice Don Beatty (July 1, 2015-June 30, 2017)
I wasn’t able to reach the chief justice to find out how many days he was out of state on government-funded trips over the past two years, but judging from the cost of his travel, it couldn’t have been much.
According to the annual state-funded travel report from the comptroller general’s office, he was reimbursed for $3,371 for out-of-state travel for fiscal year 2016-17 and $1,850 the previous year, before he was elevated to chief justice.
The report explained that: “The Chief Justice, designated Associate Justices, and Judges attended national conferences and seminars, as allowed in the Appropriation Act.”
11th Circuit Solicitor Rick Hubbard (January 2017-present)
Like Mr. McMaster, Mr. Hubbard has been in office only a little more than a year. He told me he was in Alabama and Mississippi Feb. 26-March 1, 2017, while he was working on the Tim Jones murder case. But other than that, he hasn’t left the state at public expense.
In addition to any work they had to do on cases they were prosecuting, he sent staff members out of state twice last year for conferences:
June 5-7, 2017: The head of our drug prosecution team attended the NADDI/NPLEx Annual Conference in Savannah, GA. This is the first time we sent someone to this conference. Three members of the Lexington County NET drug team attended as well. The focus was on prescription drug abuse and misuse, methamphetamine & precursors, and heroin. The NPLEx is the National Precursor Log Exchange and the NADDI is the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators.
September 17, 2017: Our five 11th Circuit investigators attended the annual ROCIC Homicide Conference in Biloxi, Mississippi. We pay $300 a year to ROCIC (Regional Organized Crime Information Center). They provide law enforcement and prosecutors a full range of services, including assistance on investigations, locating witnesses nationwide, preparing and organizing prosecution files, and preparing courtroom exhibits. They also host training conferences like the one mentioned above (the $300 does not cover the cost of the training). We sent the investigators to this conference in lieu of the training for investigators at the Solicitor’s Conference.
Ms. Scoppe writes editorials and columns for The State. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (803) 771-8571 or follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook @CindiScoppe.