Biggest, lowest Congressional spenders
June 6th, 2011
01:32 PM ET
2 years ago

Biggest, lowest Congressional spenders

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.

Comment below.

–Follow Lisa Desjardins on Twitter: @LisaDCNN

You can also listen to American Sauce on iTunes, Stitcher or subscribe to the podcast via RSS.


Filed under: American Sauce
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. diridi

    cut spending at this juncture is a big mistake, tell these GOP thugs, and idiots....let me remind you, it is GOP thugs created this mess....not Obama. I am not defending him, it is a truth.....While economy is reeling to good reports cut spending is nonsense, and idiotic. o.k, If you have brain, do not vote non of these GOP thugs...o.k, none, not even a chance....good luck, god bless...we need innovation of growth industries, education, and energy, energy, and energy....strict immigration too....o.k, listen to this wise, good luck...focus on Agriculture...too....

    June 6, 2011 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  2. Howard

    Obama, and the corrupt, progressives members of congress, are incompetent, arrogant, ambitious, extravagant opportunists, who were at the right place at the right time, to corruptly assume public office, and suck the life out of this economy, and this country, like voracious vampires.

    SAVE AMERICA ... DUMP OBAMA IN 2012 !!!

    June 6, 2011 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  3. The Day of Financial Reckoning is HERE - The Great Democrat Welfare Society Ends

    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.
    =================================================================================================
    Typical Democrat... The country is going broke and they spend, spend, spend, waste, waste, waste. So was she handing out big bonuses to her staff because she was leaving? Are there no LIMITS placed on this stuff?? Could she have spend $10 million without being questioned? This is sheer insanity, but nothing new from the Democrats. After all, it's not your money, it's their money.

    June 6, 2011 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  4. Bill from GA

    So why not take the average of the lowest 10% of all Congressmen and set that as the limit. Maybe some adjustment for the differences of locality; example, it takes more to rent and staff an office in NYC or San Francisco than in rural South Georgia.

    Many, dems and repugs, will spend as much as they are allowed to, just like Big Business and small people will take as much from the gov. as they are allowed to.

    This comment might be more appropriate on April 1. Congress, show some restraint?? Watta joke!

    June 6, 2011 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  5. logic in LA

    So the lady leaving office spent the most and the guuy who has not even set up offices spent the least – Ironic.
    But I have to ask – why hasn't he set up his office yet? Even by the end of March, someone on the job for 3 months that was not up and running would be fired in the private sector.

    June 6, 2011 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  6. NickB5

    "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."
    Nice slight of hand politics there. Give internet access with one hand and gut content with the other. Thats a street hustle where I'm from.

    June 6, 2011 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  7. gt

    and we hear all those house members saying " we dont tax revenue" ....no wonder american thinks they are out of touch ...yea tax the rich so we can pay staff members of congress 6 figure salaries.... pathedic...

    June 6, 2011 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  8. bill

    Jane Harmon, good example of why we are in debt.

    June 6, 2011 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  9. Rickster

    Gee, what a surprise....a looney democrat was the biggest spender and a republican was the most fiscally responsible. Pretty much sums up the nation as a whole.

    June 6, 2011 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |