HOW DO MEMBERS OF THE U.S. CONGRESS SPEND THEIR OFFICE BUDGETS?

Moonlight Foundation created a database of the Congressional disbursements of the Member Representational Allowance (MRA) for the first three quarters of 2021 to better understand how congressional offices spend taxpayer money. The purpose of this project was to allow the public to compare and contrast how lawmakers spend taxpayer money and to create a searchable directory to allow for greater transparency of publicly disclosed data.

Some of the findings were to be expected. For example, Democrats on the whole Democrats spent an average of $919,108.57 thus far in 2021; whereas, Republicans spent an average of $885,329.68 in their offices. Other data was more surprising. For instance, some of the loudest voices for small government, including Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), were some of the top Congressional spenders.

To be sure, there will be slight differences between offices — for instance, an office further away from DC will likely have higher expenses for travel — that may account for some of the higher budgets.

A couple of notable findings and the database of the disbursements can be found below.

  • Paul Gosar is the third highest spending Republican although he has spent his career railing against “waste and inefficiency” in the federal government. To date, Gosar has the second highest travel budget in Congress, second only to the Congressional representative from Guam. It is unclear why Gosar’s travel expenses were so high, though one example shows his office spent $2700 on a ten-day car rental, which appears to be significantly above market value.

  • 49 Congressional offices spent more than $1 million in the first three quarters of 2021. Of those nearly 50 offices, about 20 of those offices were Republican offices held by government waste czars, like Billy Long, Paul Gosar, Madison Cawthorn, and Pete Sessions. Ironically, Long was recently named a “Taxpayer Super Hero” for his “commitment to cutting waste out of the federal budget.”

  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-NY) spent thousands less than the highest spending Republicans.

  • Rep. Lance Gooden, (R-TX) has inexplicably spent $120,920.96, nearly $40,000 more than any other candidate on franked mail.

  • Democrats, including Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), make up 80 percent of the top 10 spenders in Congress.

Additional notes on the disbursement data:

  • The data for the last quarter of 2021 is not available yet, but Moonlight Foundation plans to update the data when the information is released.

  • The data includes Rep. Alcee Hastings and his office expenses until he passed away.

  • The data includes Rep. Cedric L. Richmond and his office expenses until he was appointed.

  • The data includes Rep. Debra A. Haaland and her office expenses until she was appointed to the Department of Interior

  • The data includes Rep. Devin Nunes and his office expenses until he resigned

  • The data includes Rep. Marcia L. Fudge and her office expenses until she was appointed as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

  • The data includes Rep. Ron Wright and his office expenses until he passed away.

  • The data includes Rep. Steve Stivers and his office expenses until he resigned.

  • Rep. Shontel Brown’s office does not appear on the latest disbursement disclosures.

  • Rep. Mike Carey’s office does not appear on the latest disbursement disclosures.


Congressional Disbursements _ Jan - Sep 2021 FINAL-1
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