In six months, House offices spent $673 million on salaries, equipment, expenses


In the final month of fiscal year 2009, House committees and offices went on a shopping spree, spending more than $60 million left in their budgets before it disappeared. More than $12 million went towards purchasing computer hardware, which could include new laptops and desktops.

According to a Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group analysis of six months of congressional spending data released by the House Clerk’s Office, House members and various committee offices spent more than $673 million in the last half of 2009 on salaries for staff, travel and outside vendors, who help with everything from tracking constituent information to providing cell phone service and bottled water.

CDW Government Inc. is one of the leading companies that acted as middlemen for computer related services provided to the House. The company was paid close to $8 million between June and December 2009. And among the top ten companies that do business with the House, three are companies that supply technology, followed by phone companies such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

IConstituent LLC, a company that caters only to elected officials, is among the top 15 on this list and has been paid more than $1.7 million in the six-month period. Established in 2001, they provide e-communication services for hundreds of officials across the country and include services such as e-mailing constituents and helping members of Congress build their outreach to constituents.

The top three lawmakers’ offices that spent the most include Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif, ($893,000) Rep. Daniel Lipinski D- Ill., ($870,820) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., ($858,000).

During the same six-month period, Congress spent more than $14 million on travel. The travel expenditures include airfare back to members’ home districts on a frequent basis as well as reimbursements for car rentals and meals. Not surprisingly, the top three members of Congress who have spent the most on travel–Don Young, R-Alaska., Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam and Rep. Harry Teague, D-N.M.—have home districts quite a distance from Washington D.C.

The disbursement data also shows what congressional committees and offices spend. The Office of Emergency Planning, Preparedness and Operation, set up after the September 11 attacks to manage emergency operations for Congress in the event of a crisis, spent the most on travel–more than $121,000 in the last half of 2009. The House Information Services was second, spending $114,000 on travel followed by the Committee on Judiciary ($73,000).

Another major chunk of the money was spent on what is described as “habitation expenses” that can range from buying flowers to furniture; House offices spent almost $640,000 on congressional decor, buying decorative items and purchasing items at hobby shops and for baby showers.

Other spending included mundane items like bottled water. According to the data, House members and their staff spent more than $408,000 on bottled water alone; Deer Park certainly seems to be a favorite.

This is one of the first times aggregate data has been available for analysis, and while the House Clerk’s office has attempted to make it available in a searchable format, it is far from perfect. The Reporting Group and Sunlight Labs spent several hours cleaning the data and had to manually manipulate the data to standardize names for this analysis.

The data also omits information that was previously available when disbursement records were released in bound books. The 2008 printed records show, for example, where a lawmaker or a staffer traveled, and provide information on whether the destination was the home district and the purpose for the junket. In 2008, for example, Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, reported that he, flew from DC to Ohio, while in the present logs similar travel line items only reads as, Commercial Transportation leaving out crucial details like the place visited.

Similarly, the old data cited the exact make or model of a computer purchased such as Sony Vaio while the current PDF version of the expenditure reports only says, Comp Hardware Purchase.

Here is a list of corporations that received the most money:

Corporations Total Amount
CDW Government Inc. $8,102,342
Pitney Bowes $7,773,558
Citibank $7,582,694
Cisco Systems Inc. $7,438,381
Lockheed Martin Desktop Solutions $6,517,363
Verizon Wireless $5,003,862
AT&T $2,139,834
Sallie Mae Servicing Corp $1,918,773
Avaya Federal Solutions $1,915,957
Dell Marketing LP $1,814,945

Data analysis conducted in collaboration with Roll Call. Jeremy Carbaugh of Sunlight Labs contributed to this report.

[For a downloadable version of the dataset click here.]