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Will House Budget Cuts Pave Way for More Special Interest Influence on Capitol Hill?

Overall number of paid staffers are down 7.4 percent since 2009, though Communications Directors are on the rise


January 17, 2012

Contact: Liz Bartolomeo 202-742-1520 x226

WASHINGTON, DC — When the House of Representatives heads back to work on Tuesday, offices will be slightly leaner than they were a year ago. As Congress tightens its budgetary belt, it’s having a direct effect on office staffing and technology, according to new analysis from the Sunlight Foundation.

In January 2011, the House voted 410-13 to slash its operating budget by 5% (or $35 million), and Sunlight’s analysis of House disbursement data shows some immediate effects: a loss of 1,000 staff positions, and major cutbacks in computers and office supplies. With House offices facing another 5.2% percent cut (6.4 % for committees) for FY 2012, more cuts in both staff and salaries can be expected as personnel compensation accounts for more than half of all House expenditures.

In the full analysis, Sunlight Foundation Data Fellow Lee Drutman compares House disbursement data for the third quarters of 2009, 2010 and 2011. Key findings include:

-- Overall, House offices have cut the number of salaried staff positions by 7.4%, shedding 948 between 2009 and 2011. (This includes both legislative and non-legislative positions.)

-- Overall spending on total personnel compensation is down 1.7%. (In the private sector, total compensation has increased by 4.1% during this same period.)

-- Offices have cut spending most steeply on office supplies (down 30.7%), equipment (down 46.4%, particularly computers, which are down 62.5%) and franked mail (down 25.8%).

-- One area of growth, however, is in public relations. House offices added 32 new “Communications Director” positions between 2009 and 2011.

Detailed charts on the changes in aggregated office expenditures, staff positions, salary by position and office supplies are included in analysis on the Sunlight blog.

The report builds upon our previous review of the long-term decline of House staff salaries and employment, competition from the private sector and reliance on special interests to help them to do their work.

Data for the analysis was collected using Sunlight’s House Expenditure Report database, which digitizes the statement of disbursements PDFs published quarterly by the House. Though we are confident that our data captures the larger patterns and general trends, we must in good faith disclose that the underlying data is messy since the House of Representatives needs to makes a better effort with respect to how it normalizes and releases data to the public.

The full analysis is available on the Sunlight blog.

The Sunlight Foundation is a non-partisan non-profit that uses cutting-edge technology and ideas to make government transparent and accountable. Visit to learn more about Sunlight’s projects, including and