Capitol Hill (CNN) – We now have the first expense reports for the 112th House of Representatives. The 3293-page Statement of Disbursements shows how much of their office budgets each House member spent in the first three months of the year. We've read it (you can read yourself, here) and will bring you highlights this week.
Who spent the most? A longtime congresswoman ending her Capitol career. Who spent the least? A fiscally-conservative freshman from Illinois.
Listen to our podcast for more, including something few people realize: when the House put expense reports online two years ago it also cut back on much of the detail in those reports. We now know far less about what members are spending than we did when the reports were done exclusively by hand.
Listen here. Comment below or keep reading.
Congressional expense reports
First, a note. These expense reports cover only January – March of 2011. They are not all-inclusive. Members of the House have two years to turn in receipts. Thus, some members could appear to be low spenders when they simply have not submitted their paperwork yet. Likewise, higher spenders could be more organized. Freshman members also end up on the low spending list more often because they are still hiring staff and setting up office.
Nonetheless, there are some standouts in the report. We'll be posting them through the week.
Starting with biggest and lowest spenders.
Biggest spender in the first quarter
Rep. Jane Harman, D-California.
Harman retired from Congress on Feb. 28 after 16 years in office. In her final two months, the Californian oversaw spending that amounted to $397,899.04 for the quarter.
The bulk of that money, $349,159.64, was for staff salaries. That is over $81,000 more than Harman spent on salaries in the first quarter of 2010, when she reported having a larger number of staff on her payroll.
Harman's former chief of staff declined to comment on the level of the expenses, stating that the congresswoman is now out of office and he no longer speaks for her.
Harman now runs the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. A spokesman there referred us to Harman's former chief of staff and likewise did not comment.
Lowest spender in the first quarter
Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Illinois
Walsh is a self-described Tea Party activist and fiscally-conservative congressman who represents some of Chicago's outer suburbs. His spending in the first quarter came in at $123,458, by far the lowest figure for members of the House.
Where'd he save?
Walsh's staff tell us that he is still setting up one of his district offices. That likely has saved him $15,000-$35,000 in rent and personnel. But even adding that amount to his total, Walsh would still be the lowest spender.
Perhaps his main source of savings are staff salaries, which currently are at levels well below those of other offices. Additionally, Walsh is known for his use of new media (@RepJoeWalsh on Twitter) and has spent far less than average on traditional advertising and outreach.
–Follow Lisa Desjardins on Twitter: @LisaDCNN
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