Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who has heatedly questioned the spending of Smithsonian officials in the past, has asked the Smithsonian Inspector General for complete travel documents for Secretary G. Wayne Clough.
In a letter released Monday, Grassley said “I am now concerned that Secretary Clough has incurred many of the same type of questionable travel expenses as his predecessor and his promised changes at the Smithsonian may have been little more than lip service.”
Grassley said his concerns were prompted by a report on the Web site Junketsleuth.com that Clough had taken 59 trips since he became secretary in July 2008 and that outside donors paid for $112,000 of the travel cost. The senator, who is the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and senior member of the Senate Budget Committee, asked the Smithsonian for “unredacted copies of all travel documents” during Clough’s tenure.
The investigative Web site examined Smithsonian travel documents and said Clough, who was accompanied by his wife on some trips, had traveled to 34 U.S. destinations and eight foreign countries since taking the job. It said he traveled about 63 days per year and cited trips to France, Alaska and “resort destinations in Florida and Colorado.”
Officials at the Smithsonian received Grassley’s letter on Monday, but countered the findings of JunketSleuth in a statement issued late last week. Officials said all but five of the Clough trips were paid for with non-federal funds.
In the statement, the Smithsonian explained that travel is required because the Smithsonian is an international organization, and many of its programs depend on private funds and meetings with potential donors. “The Smithsonian is proud of the fact that two-thirds of its travel funds come from outside sources,” the statement said.
In response to Clough’s trips to Antarctica and New Zealand, the statement says the travel was “Paid in part, by the U.S. Antarctica Program. He went at the invitation of the National Science Foundation where he served as a member of the National Science Board.”
The Smithsonian receives about 70 percent of its budget from the federal government, which covers most salaries, construction and physical improvements to the 19 museums and research centers. The remainder comes from private donors. Clough, the former president of Georgia Tech, is paid with non-federal funds.
The Smithsonian emphasized that all travel by Secretary Clough and his wife, Anne, was approved by its general counsel and the Under Secretary for Finance and Administration.
In the past, Grassley demanded accountability from the Smithsonian regarding the expenses of former Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small. A Washington Post investigation found that Small was using federal funds for his travel and upgrades on his Smithsonian office and private home. Small resigned in March 2007.
In the wake of Small’s resignation, the Smithsonian tightened its travel policies, following federal travel guidelines.
However, Grassley said the Smithsonian’s practices needed another airing. “It seems like the Smithsonian may have not learned from previous mistakes,” said Grassley. He asked the Inspector General for financial documentation on each trip’s cost, additional unredacted travel documents for Anne Clough and an explanation for any airline upgrades that were requested by Clough.
JunketSleuth reported “Clough routinely traveled first class on commercial flights, a practice that is prohibited under federal guidelines (unless medically necessary), and opposed by the Smithsonian’s own auditors. Clough repeatedly cited a medical condition as the reason for his first class accommodation, although travel photos taken by the Smithsonian show him hiking and exploring the outdoors.”