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Congressman's Jaunts Raised Some Eyebrows

January 05, 1988|JESS BRAVIN | Times Staff Writer

During his 11 years in Congress, Rep. Robert E. Badham has gained a reputation for extensive travel at public expense, questionable use of campaign contributions and poor attendance.

Regularly cited as one of Congress' most itinerant members, the Newport Beach Republican found the Washington winters an apt time to undertake official visits to such places as the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, Fiji, Jamaica, Mexico and Tahiti.

Badham has asserted that his many trips abroad--which earned him a ranking by the public interest group Congress Watch as the most traveled member of the House in 1984, and its second-greatest traveler in 1986--were a necessary part of his work as a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

But his itinerary over 11 years in Congress reads like the Grand Tour, prompting United Press International to comment in a 1984 article that Badham "didn't go around the world in 80 days. He took longer, and taxpayers would have preferred a balloon to his costly military flights."

In 1986, Congress Watch reported that Badham, a fiscal conservative on virtually all but military expenditures, had spent between $2,500 and $12,844 per trip for a total of $45,628 over a 21-month period. The most expensive trip was a two-week journey through Belgium, England and Italy in November of 1984.

Of equal interest to pundits was the congressman's use of campaign fund contributions. Expenditures such as $6,000 for a Cadillac and $400 for his wife's dermatology bill prompted the New Republic to comment in 1982 that Badham's campaign accounts provide "ample proof that slush funds still exist in the House."

To critics, Badham has said that contributors who disapprove of his using their donations to buy evening gowns for his wife, a video camera for his home and gifts for his friends should ask for their money back.

In 1986, Badham's absentee rate was 15%, one of the highest in the House.

Because the 40th Congressional District is overwhelmingly populated by Republicans, Badham's opponents have seized upon his work habits and use of political contributions as issues, rather than upon Badham's conservative views.

Badham was reelected by a 60% margin in 1986.

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