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Lawmaker doesn't want TSA to pocket change left at checkpoints

December 29, 2011 | 12:29 pm

A congressman has proposed turning over the loose change left at airport checkpoints to the USO for airport programs that benefit the troops.

Ever wonder what happens to the loose change that harried travelers leave behind at airport checkpoints?

One lawmaker has his sights on the unclaimed money, which added up to $376,480.39 in the 2010 fiscal year.

At Los Angeles International Airport alone, $19,110.83 was left at checkpoints, according to a Transportation Security Administration spokesman. That’s in addition to $500 in poker chips left behind at LAX a few years ago and later converted by TSA to cash.

Congress allows TSA to use the unclaimed money to help fund its operations.

But legislation has been introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) to give the money to the USO for its airport programs in support of the military. The USO, whose mission is to lift the spirits of America's troops and their families, is a nonprofit, congressionally chartered private organization. 

Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance, said his advocacy group supports turning over the money to the USO or other groups that aid travelers with things like airport help desks.

"Any use of the money by TSA seems distasteful," he said. "It's not their money. In fact, it is money left by harassed passengers and should certainly not go to to TSA as a reward for invasive searches."

Miller proposed a similar but unsuccessful measure in 2009 to turn the money over to the USO. Now that he is chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, he may be better positioned to advance his bill.

The measure, which has yet to move out of the Committee on Homeland Security, could face a steep climb at a time when lawmakers are searching for every nickel and dime to reduce the federal budget deficit.

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-- Richard Simon in Washington

Photo: A congressman has proposed turning over the loose change left at airport checkpoints to the USO for airport programs that benefit the troops.

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