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AP documents North Dakota lawmaker’s taxpayer-funded travel

FILE - North Dakota Sen. Ray Holmberg attends a joint House and Senate Appropriations Committee meeting at the Capitol in Bismarck, N.D., Jan. 7, 2009. AP’s review of records found that Holmberg’s taxpayer-funded travel expenses have far exceeded those of his fellow lawmakers over the past decade. (AP Photo/Will Kincaid, File)

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Bismarck reporter James MacPherson scooped North Dakota media by revealing just how extensively — and expensively — a state senator had traveled on the taxpayer’s dime.

Republican Sen. Ray Holmberg, who recently announced he would end his 46-year-career following a report that he had traded scores of text messages with a man jailed on child pornography charges, was already known around the state Capitol as a frequent traveler. But MacPherson was the first to quantify just how extensive Holmberg’s travel was — more than 14 times the average for lawmakers over the past decade.

MacPherson filed a Freedom of Information Act request and obtained data stretching back 10 years — records earlier than that were sketchy — and after spending hours going through the documents was able to report that Holmberg’s taxpayer-funded trips to four dozen U.S. cities, China, Canada and several countries in Europe, ran up expenses that far exceeded the norm for his fellow lawmakers. And Holmberg, the state’s longest-serving senator, held a position that allowed him to approve his own travel.

Holmberg’s travel expenses were apparently legal, but raise questions of oversight and accountability.

North Dakota media pounced on the story — The Bismarck Tribune, AP’s largest member in the state, displayed it prominently online and atop the print edition — and the state’s attorney general praised MacPherson’s work.

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