2021 Congressional Disbursements: How Lawmaker  Spend Their Congressional Office Budgets

There is nothing more illuminating to evaluating a lawmakers commitment to fiscally responsibility than reviewing how each lawmaker chooses to spend its congressional office budget. Moonlight Foundation created a database of the 2021 Congressional disbursements to understand how congressional offices spent their resources. The purpose of this project was to create a searchable directory to allow for greater transparency of publicly disclosed data. 

 

Some findings were unexpected. 

 

Some of the loudest conservative voices for fiscal responsibility in government spending, including Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), were some of the largest spenders. Rep. Gosar had the single highest travel budget in all of Congress with lavish purchases including a hotel for three nights that cost more than $6,000. 

 

Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX) has inexplicably spent nearly $200,000 — $70,000 more than any other Congressional office — on franked mail, a Congressional privilege of sending mail without postage payment. Eight days after the January 6 insurrection, Gooden sent out a newsletter on the “impeachment vote.” Themes of Gooden’s franked mail include “defund the police,” “big tech profits over people,” “defunding vaccine mandates,” and “should parents have a say in the classroom,” according to Congressional records. Gooden was also a top 5 spender on travel.

 

As detailed in the “Regulations Governing the Use of Mailing Frank,” “material of a partisan political nature shall not be included in newsletters.” It is unclear how issues, such as the “impeachment vote,” could not be considered partisan or political by nature. 

 

Other notable findings include:

  • Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN) has spent nearly $215,000 on printing, nearly outspending the second highest spender by more than $60,000. 

  • On average, Republican offices spend about $100,000 less than Democratic offices, spending $1.2 million, while their Democratic counterparts spent $1.3 million. 

  • Between October 3 and October 5, 2021, Rep. Paul Gosar’s office expensed $6,048.98, as a single charge for “lodging.” Curiously, between October 3 and October 6, Leslie Foti, a staffer of Rep. Gosar staffer, also expensed $2,378.73 in “lodging” and expensed $1,636.80 in “airfare commercial transportation.” Additionally, on January 7, 2021, the day after the January 6 riots, Rep. Paul Gosar’s office spent $1,787.20 on commercial transportation.

  • Rep. Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR) spends the most in Congress on her staff’s compensation. 

 

Transparency is essential to furthering trust between the public and elected officials. Right now, there is lack of transparency when it comes to Congressional disbursements. For instance, where are Congressional offices go when they travel, what lodging establishments are being used, or what type of cars are being used are all details that are not disclosed. 

The full database can be found below.