Patty Stonesifer, the vice chair of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, said she is confident that the travel undertaken by Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough benefits the Smithsonian.
During her tenure as chair of the board, which ended last month, Stonesifer said, she conducted a weekly review of Clough’s travels and other activities. “I know how he is pursuing his job every week,” she said. Stonesifer added that given the pressing need to raise funds, the secretary’s travel would be increasing.
On Monday, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) asked the Smithsonian inspector general for the complete documentation of Clough’s travels since 2008, when he became the institution’s top official. Grassley, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said he was concerned that “the Smithsonian may have not learned from previous mistakes” after an online investigative group, JunketSleuth.com, questioned 59 trips.
Stonesifer said: “Sen. Grassley is doing what oversight does. I am confident that we share his concerns. I share his concerns for public stewardship. I want him to know how aligned we are with that and the processes we have put in place.”
After the 2007 investigation and eventual resignation of former secretary Lawrence M. Small for excessive spending of federal funds, Stonesifer led a review of governance reforms at the Smithsonian. “The process requires a review of all the travel of Secretary Clough and his wife,” she said. The Smithsonian’s own travel policies were revised, and Clough’s travel is reviewed by the under secretary for finance and administration, as well as by the regents.
Smithsonian officials have disputed several points in the JunketSleuth.com review, which was based on documents, some redacted, provided by the Smithsonian. Clough is not a federal employee, and his travel was not paid for with taxpayers’ money, the officials said. The Smithsonian paid for all but five of his trips, which were financed by other organizations, not the Smithsonian.
Officials emphasized that Clough, as part of his job as the head of the world’s largest museum complex, was required to visit the Smithsonian research facilities and projects, which are located around the world, as well as travel to raise money. The Smithsonian has programs in 100 countries, according to the institution. Among other destinations, Clough traveled to Panama, Chile, Belize, New York City and Arizona. The Smithsonian raised $182 million in private funds last year.
The Smithsonian receives about 70 percent of its budget from the federal government but must raise private funds for new projects, fellowships and programs.
“Because of the fundraising environment we are in, we have ambitious plans for private fundraising. Travel will be even greater,” said Stonesifer. “We have alignment with our mission and appropriate travel levels.”