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ISSUE #109
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Features

ArrowPayback Time
If Republicans lose Congress, don't assume things will change
Matt Taibbi

ArrowAre You Radioactive Football?
Why “dirty bomb hoax” is redundant
Hank Williams Jr.

ArrowMurrah Redux
9/11 Truth is a bald regurgitation of a silly tale we heard ten years ago
Matt Taibbi

Local BEAST

ArrowTom & Sally Take a Trip
Foley Shmoley! Reynolds has scandal all his own.
Allan Uthman

ArrowRepresentative Royale!

ArrowBeast Calling
We call Eliot Spitzer's campaign to see just what "on the first day everything changes" means.

Departments

ArrowThe Beast Page 3
Inoperable Sump Pump

ArrowKino Korner: Movies
The Prestige, The Departed, Employee of the Month, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

Arrow[sic] - Letters
Chuckleside, Konspiracy Kops, Happy Clam Sends Mindless Bias, Kid Power and more

Tom & Sally Take a Trip

continued - page 2

But the apparently inexhaustible Vastola somehow still has found time, since December 2004, to earn $1,000 per month from TOMPAC, Reynolds’ Political Action Committee, as a consultant (TOMPAC is another scandal in itself, having spent nearly of its funds on salary and expenses, rather than political donations). Even more incredible, she’s picking up another $1,000 each month as a part-time employee in the Congressman’s personal office. It’s not clear that she’s actually doing any work in that capacity, but the “job” does ensure that Vastola accrues the time on the federal payroll necessary to qualify for a pension at the same rate as a full-time employee. It also makes her eligible for the legendary Thrift Savings Plan, which allows income to be invested on a tax-deferred basis. “If Vastola is on the payroll merely to qualify for the House pension and healthcare in retirement, and she is not performing any official duties for this salary,” the CCC asserts, “it would surely violate House rules.”

As Reynolds’ Chief of staff, Vastola’s travel expenses exceeded those of her Western New York counterparts by a factor of ten, in all totalling 158 tax-funded trips from 1999-2002, costing $41,390, more than double the next most frequent flyer in the region.

As the CCC states, “Vastola appears to have charged taxpayers to long-distance commute every weekend – for four years straight. She was alone among the western NY delegation in enjoying such an arrangement.”

You might think that Reynolds just likes to run his chiefs of staff around a lot, but that theory is disproved as easily as looking up his next chief of staff’s travel reimbursements. Mike Brady, Reynold’s Chief of Staff after Vastola, took two flights in 2003, costing the taxpayer $1,145.

So why so much travel for Vastola? It seems that Reynolds just likes having her around. Saying Vastola traveled with her boss far more than any other top congressional aide in the area doesn’t do the numbers justice. According to reimbursement records from 1999 through 2001, Representative Jack Walsh didn’t travel with his chief of staff once. Neither did Louise Slaughter. Jack Quinn took 9 total trips with his chief of staff. In the same period, Tom Reynolds traveled with Vastola 120 times. And 38 more times in 2002. And we paid for it all. The next year, when Mike Brady was Reynolds’ Chief of Staff, they didn’t travel together once.

It gets even worse, and weirder, when you look at the lodging expenses.

Reynolds has owned a unit in a condo tower in Crystal City, VA, since he joined the House in January 1999 (everyone who works in Washington live in Virginia). Vastola has owned a place one floor down from him in the same building since April 1999. Despite this, Reynolds has filed for hotel stays in DC at least three times, once for a five-day stretch. Even curiouser, “Both Vastola and Reynolds have filed for lodging expenses in the Buffalo area during their (apparently concurrent) travel, though both have permanent residences and spouses there.”

And then there’s this interesting discrepancy: “At times, when Reynolds and Vastola traveled together, there was one lodging expense filed by them for the days between flights they took together. In contrast, the times when Vastola’s successor, Brady, traveled with Reynolds, the two each filed a separate lodging expense for the days between their flights together.”

Indeed, Vastola and Reynolds appear to be joined at the hip. It’s no secret that Reynolds is in the top 20% of congressmen who go on travel junkets, having enjoyed twelve junkets, mostly paid by lobbyists, since 1998, costing $48,575. But what I didn’t know was that Vastola has accompanied him on “at least four” of the trips, including one that was apparently financed by taxpayers.

Why are Reynolds and Vastola jetting around the country on our dime? How to they find time for all the vacations? And why on earth are we paying for Tom Reynolds and his sidekick to shack up in hotels in cities where they already own homes? Of course, here your sordid imagination might lead you to thoughts of a torrid DC power romance fit only for radio, but there’s no real evidence of that, and it’s not my point anyway. Even if Reynolds isn’t fooling around with the help, he’s clearly been sticking it to us.

 

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