Posted at: 07/01/2013 10:47 PM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4
An online petition calls on New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce to refund nearly $20,000 for airfare the federal government spent on him to take a 1-day trip to Egypt.
Pearce traveled in November 2012 from Lubbock, TX to Cairo where he then flew on military helicopters to meet with New Mexico Guard members. Pearce said he wanted to distribute information regarding high paying jobs in the oil and gas industry to give the soldiers employment options upon their return to New Mexico.
“As a veteran who served in Vietnam, I am not going to let (them) come home wondering how (they’re) going to feed (their) family,” Pearce said.
Pearce was originally a part of a larger congressional delegation scheduled to travel to the Middle East, but the trip was cancelled four days before the scheduled departure. Pearce said he notified the U.S. State Department that he still wanted to go because he had promised New Mexico’s troops that he would visit.
At that point, congressional travel records indicate the State Dept. paid $19,918.26 for Pearce to travel in business class alone and meet with the troops for one day.
"It's inexcusable to spend $20,000 on a plane ticket," said Progress Now Executive Director Pat Davis.
Davis created an online petition calling on Pearce to refund the trip stating $20,000 could have paid for higher priority needs. As of Monday night, nearly 1,000 people had already signed the petition.
But Pearce said the U.S State Dept. made all travel arrangements, and if the agency had asked him to delay his flight for cheaper airfare, he would have done so. Pearce said he “absolutely will not” refund the travel expenses.