How Lawmakers use Tax dollars to fund lavish lifestyles

The scandal in Great Britain over Members of Parliament using expense accounts to fund purchases of luxury items threatens all major parties and many prominent MoP's.

The Wall Street Journal's Louis Radnofsky and T.W. Franam decided to take a gander at what our lawmakers have been up to as far as expensing their lifestyles and what they found will blow your socks off:

U.S. politicians, unlike their counterparts in Great Britain, can't bill taxpayers for personal living expenses. The U.S. Treasury gives them an allowance to cover "official and representational expenses," according to congressional rules, and the lawmakers enjoy a fair amount of discretion in how they use the funds.

The Senate and House release volumes of the reimbursement requests for these allowances, but do not make them available electronically. A Wall Street Journal review of thousands of pages of these records for 2008 expenses showed most lawmaker spending flowed to areas such as staff salaries, travel, office rent and supplies, and printing and mailing.

But it also turned up spending on an array of products, from the car leases and electronics to a high-end laptop computer and $22 cellphone holder. Rep. Howard Berman expensed $84,000 worth of personalized calendars, printed by the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, for his constituents. A spokeswoman for Mr. Berman, a California Democrat, didn't return requests for comment.

The records show that some lawmakers spent heavily in the final months of the year to draw down allowances before the end of December -- a time when U.S. households were paring their budgets and lawmakers were criticizing Detroit auto executives for taking private aircraft to Washington to plead their case for taxpayer funding.

One lawmaker, Eni Faleomavaega, the House delegate from American Samoa, used the official account to purchase 2 46' televisions. And Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings spent $25,000 leasing a 2008 luxury Lexus hybrid sedan.

This is not surprising to anyone who follows Congress. Ed Lasky adds:

It only took the WSJ people to review thousands of pages of documents to reveal this story.

I suppose Congressmen just want this information buried in a blizzard of paper. Where was the New York Times on this story? Nowhere. Don't give too much credit to Nancy Pelosi. She is married to a very wealthy man who benefited from a big fat contract given to the company CB Richard Ellis. Pelosi's husband is a major investor in the company and is chairman of the board.

Why is this kind of thing a major scandal in Britain while flying below the media radar here? Probably because most Americans assume the worst about Congress and it is not quite the shock to discover lawmakers enriching themselves here as it is in Great Britain.

We are used to the idea of our lawmakers being greedy, money grubbing Babbits.



The scandal in Great Britain over Members of Parliament using expense accounts to fund purchases of luxury items threatens all major parties and many prominent MoP's.

The Wall Street Journal's Louis Radnofsky and T.W. Franam decided to take a gander at what our lawmakers have been up to as far as expensing their lifestyles and what they found will blow your socks off:

U.S. politicians, unlike their counterparts in Great Britain, can't bill taxpayers for personal living expenses. The U.S. Treasury gives them an allowance to cover "official and representational expenses," according to congressional rules, and the lawmakers enjoy a fair amount of discretion in how they use the funds.

The Senate and House release volumes of the reimbursement requests for these allowances, but do not make them available electronically. A Wall Street Journal review of thousands of pages of these records for 2008 expenses showed most lawmaker spending flowed to areas such as staff salaries, travel, office rent and supplies, and printing and mailing.

But it also turned up spending on an array of products, from the car leases and electronics to a high-end laptop computer and $22 cellphone holder. Rep. Howard Berman expensed $84,000 worth of personalized calendars, printed by the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, for his constituents. A spokeswoman for Mr. Berman, a California Democrat, didn't return requests for comment.

The records show that some lawmakers spent heavily in the final months of the year to draw down allowances before the end of December -- a time when U.S. households were paring their budgets and lawmakers were criticizing Detroit auto executives for taking private aircraft to Washington to plead their case for taxpayer funding.

One lawmaker, Eni Faleomavaega, the House delegate from American Samoa, used the official account to purchase 2 46' televisions. And Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings spent $25,000 leasing a 2008 luxury Lexus hybrid sedan.

This is not surprising to anyone who follows Congress. Ed Lasky adds:

It only took the WSJ people to review thousands of pages of documents to reveal this story.

I suppose Congressmen just want this information buried in a blizzard of paper. Where was the New York Times on this story? Nowhere. Don't give too much credit to Nancy Pelosi. She is married to a very wealthy man who benefited from a big fat contract given to the company CB Richard Ellis. Pelosi's husband is a major investor in the company and is chairman of the board.

Why is this kind of thing a major scandal in Britain while flying below the media radar here? Probably because most Americans assume the worst about Congress and it is not quite the shock to discover lawmakers enriching themselves here as it is in Great Britain.

We are used to the idea of our lawmakers being greedy, money grubbing Babbits.