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March 07, 2011

Take the Money And Run: Ousted Democrats Give Their Staffers Millions On Their Way Out the Door

Some House members don't spend all of their staffing allowance. A few of them return the unneeded allowance to the Treasury. Most don't, spending as much as possible (go figure).

In this case some of the defeated House members had a good deal of money to their credit and they paid it all out to their staffers as they left office.

Departing members of the House of Representatives awarded millions of dollars in extra pay to aides as they closed down their offices, according to lawmakers' spending records.

The 96 lawmakers paid their employees $6.7 million, or 31%, more in the fourth quarter of 2010 than they did, on average, in the first three quarters of the year.

That's about twice as much as the 16% increase awarded by lawmakers who returned to the 112th Congress, according to LegiStorm, an organization that tracks congressional salaries.

The disparity suggests retiring or defeated members used remaining funds in their official expenses budgets to boost salaries for staffers before they left Washington, cash that might otherwise have been returned to the U.S. Treasury.

...

Because most of the departing members were Democrats, fourth-quarter salary increases in 2010 for Democratic staffers were the largest in the decade LegiStorm has been gathering such data.

The article says that "similar" -- but not equal -- payouts were seen after the 2006 elections put many Republicans out on the street.

A Congressional staffer wrote to me at one point making the case that Congressional budgets were not unreasonable. Some Congressmen have very large districts in terms of pure geographical size, and have to maintain several offices back home -- one office won't do the trick if the jurisdiction is large enough; no one's going to drive three hours to see their Congressman.

That may be true, but many Congressmen have compact districts; shouldn't the fix here be to offer additional money only to those Congressmen representing jurisdictions needing more than one office? There's little chance of mischief as you can create a simple formula for it, based on the square mileage of a district and maximum distance end to end. And specify that this additional allowance can only be used for the purpose of establishing additional offices (that is, you can't use to hire additional legislative aides in DC.)

And the rest of them can take a cut in their allowance.

It sure seems that we're granting too big an allowance to most Congressmen if so many of them are well under their spending limit and have to contrive ways to give it all away.


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posted by Ace at 11:53 AM

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