Indiana lawmakers make a lot of trips on other people's dimes, and Sen. Lugar doesn't think it's such a big deal:
Indiana representatives and senators have taken trips to Mexico, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Palm Beach, Las Vegas, Rome and Paris in recent years, racking up $250,000 in expenses paid for by special interest groups, such as think tanks, nonprofit organizations, universities, medical groups and associations.
[. . .]
In all, Lugar accepted the most trip expenses -- $135,000 worth -- but said he doesn't think it sends a bad message.
"I don't believe so. I think, first of all, the foundations believe it is well worthwhile in terms of their missions, which usually include establishing better relationships," he said.
I thik he's wrong about the message being sent. Voters have always been skeptical of such travel perks, just not enough to take it out on the politicians at election time. With the current level of anti-Washington sentiment in the country, I suspect voters' tolerance of such special-interest manipulation is pretty low. The elected officials who don't get that are likely to be taking unwanted trips, home, courtesy of voters.