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Rep. Mia LoveLudmya (Mia) Love'The View' plans series of conservative women as temporary McCain replacements Black Republican advocates his case for CBC membership Black women look to build upon gains in coming elections MORE on Tuesday night said she initially billed taxpayers more than $1,000 to fly to a party in Washington last spring because she also had an official “strategy meeting” at the Capitol with her chief of staff that same weekend.
The public comments were the Utah Republican's first since her decision last week to pay back taxpayers for the cost of the round-trip flights after The Hill raised questions about her travel expenses.
The freshman congresswoman had been reimbursed $1,160 to fly between Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C., the same weekend she attended the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, billed as the capital's biggest social gathering.
“We did have a staff meeting [that weekend]. It’s a strategy meeting. I can’t really share about what we’re doing,” Love, a rising star in the Republican Party, told The Hill in a brief interview at the Capitol. “It’s a strategy meeting I had with my chief of staff, OK?”
House rules prohibit members from using their congressional allowance “to pay for any expenses related to activities or events that are primarily social in nature.” But Love’s spokesman, Richard Piatt, insisted the weekend trip, from Saturday to Sunday, had included time for official business.
Piatt's explanation to CBS affiliate KUTV in Salt Lake City was slightly different than Love's description of a meeting with her top aide. Piatt told the station Love "attended several meetings in addition to dinner that weekend."
Last year, Love won a close race in a congressional district just south of Salt Lake City. She’s a top target of Democrats this cycle, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has called on Love to give a “full accounting of her ‘official business’ that weekend."
But Love’s office, so far, has not provided The Hill with any documentation, including emails or calendar entries, showing that she had official business that weekend.
“That’s ridiculous. That whole thing’s ridiculous,” Love said when The Hill initially asked her about the flights, just off the House floor.
“First of all, I did nothing wrong,” she added, noting that she has run the trip by the Ethics Committee and the House Administration Committee, which writes the House rules.
Asked why she paid back the cost of the flights if she did nothing wrong, Love replied: “I just didn’t want any question. I didn’t want anyone questioning my integrity or anything that I did.
“I dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s,” she said.
A Hill reporter then asked whether he could ride down the elevator with Love and continue the interview, to which Love replied, “Actually I’m going to go. This is something I don’t really want to discuss with you.”
— Updated at 10:51 p.m.
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