With gas prices pinching the wallet and the national debt mounting, members of Congress proclaim that they feel Americans’ pain and are committed to cutting back. Just not one of their favorite perks—globetrotting to far-flung locations at the expense of taxpayers and special interests.

The pledges of travel austerity have been replaced this spring with fresh images of lawmakers strolling down an ornate European street with their spouses or touring the Bosphorus by boat—all supposedly in the name of doing the people’s business.

In all, lawmakers have taken more than 200 trips financed by private groups, costing more than $1 million since January. That’s almost double the amount spent during the first five months in 2010 and well above the first five of months of 2007, before Americans were swept into a recession and trillion-dollar-plus budget deficits.

Dozens more congressional trips were footed by taxpayers, supposedly in the name of research. Whether a trip is truly a fact-finding mission—or a corporate-sponsored junket or political theater—is often in the eye of the beholder.

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