Following five years of trekking to 46 different countries at taxpayer expense, Cincinnati Congressman Steve Chabot has quietly reined in his urge for travel.
CityBeat documented Chabot’s globe-hopping ways last October. From the time he returned to office in 2011 after a two-year hiatus, Chabot went on a 16-trip travel spree that cost the government $193,517. His junkets were sanctioned as chairman of the House Small Business Committee, yet he went to out-of-the-way nooks like Bhutan, Myanmar and Moldova as often as he visited major trade markets.
Chabot’s most recent subsidized trip, a six-day jaunt through Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, occurred last August. The trip cost $11,544 and, as was the case with his previous trips, he reported no accomplishments on his Congressional blog. Chabot explained last year that he likes to gain “first-hand knowledge of the people, places and issues with which our nation is dealing overseas” and to better understand trade deals.
With President Donald Trump threatening to deep-six trade deals in every direction, Chabot’s calming appearance abroad would seem to be in order. But he has stayed put ever since that trip to Baku and Yerevan a full year ago. Chabot spokesman Brian Griffith could not be reached last week. He said this in May:
“Due to the start of the new administration, the congressional schedule has been fairly hectic,” Griffith said in an email. “And there is nothing currently on his (travel) schedule.”
A Republican who lives in Westwood, Chabot was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994 and has now been in office 21 years.
“He always took fairly expensive trips even though he has a reputation for being frugal,” says Michele Young, an Indian Hill attorney who lost to Chabot in the Ohio District 1 election last November.
Young says Chabot’s overseas travel was outrageous considering how many Americans are struggling to make ends meet and how Chabot advocated cuts in what he calls "wasteful government spending."
“Citizens are showing up for the first time at his door every recess and they’re asking to see him,” she says. “He’s not holding town halls and he’s not seeing them. I think he doesn’t want to be seen gallivanting across the globe when he won’t hold town meetings.”
Chabot is viewed as a tad more vulnerable when he’s up for re-election in November 2018. The Democratic Party sees the seat as winnable, even though the district’s 2010 addition of solid red Warren County gave Chabot a 60-to-40 win percentage last year. The Cook Political Report now considers the district as “competitive,” although “likely Republican.”
Chabot has kept his head down in 2017. His preferred town hall meeting is with business leaders or, when it comes to the rabble, of the telephonic variety. He hasn’t posted anything in his congressional blog since congratulating La Salle High School, his alma mater, on its state football championship last fall.
And while sparing taxpayers the expense of costly trips abroad, he has also resisted the usual travel opps dangled before members of Congress by special interest groups. His one reported “gift” trip in 2017? A two-day visit to New York City, courtesy the Heritage Foundation.
CONTACT JAMES McNAIR: [email protected], 513-914-2736 or @jmacnews on Twitter