12 INVESTIGATES: Congressional Travel

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - As the nation braced for the fiscal cliff and massive budget cuts, last year Democrats and Republicans in the US House did agree on one thing.... there was enough money for them to travel the world on the taxpayer's dime.

According to congressional records, house members spent more on these international stops than in either of the two previous years. At least 172 members of the house spent more than $1.5 million tax dollars last year visiting every continent but Antarctica.

The Sarasota Herald Tribune created an interactive map that shows you all 90 countries house members visited. War torn Afghanistan was the most popular destination, getting 37 visits, but sunny Spain was a close second. Members lingered their longer as well. They spent 227 days in Spain.

So, who spent the most? Former Rep. David Dreier in California. He spent 58 days overseas, visiting at least 18 countries, costing taxpayers at minimum $67,000. In Virginia? House majority leader Eric Cantor did the most traveling. He spent 7 days overseas- visiting 6 countries.

According to a Herald Tribune analysis, 14 members of the house announced their retirement, resigned or ran for another office in 2012, yet traveled at a cost of at least $230,000 to taxpayers. The investigation did not include travel by members of the US Senate because those records are harder to get and are even less detailed.

Several members of congress argue the trips are necessary, especially for high ranking committee members, to promote the US in other countries and to find business opportunities. Though, many members also admit there is plenty of possibility for abuse.

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