House Members, Committees and Offices Spend $1.36 Billion in 2010


In 2010, members, committees and other offices of the U.S. House of Representatives spent more than $1.36 billion on salaries, benefits, office equipment, travel, consultants and other expenses. Of that, the largest expense–about $1 billion–was for salaries and benefits, followed by spending on rent and communication costs, technology and related maintenance costs.

Nine of the ten biggest spenders were Democrats, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former members Dana Titus, D-Nev., Scott Murphy, D-N.Y., and Mary Jo Kilroy, D-Ohio. Half of the top ten spenders were from California.

Lawmakers do not pay out of their member representational allowances–the sum each member of Congress receives to pay for staff and official expenses–for the offices in the Capitol Hill buildings that are assigned to them, but do pay for rent, utilities and communication such as phone bills in their district offices, a sum that amounts to $76 million, a Sunlight Foundation analysis of the statements of disbursements released recently by the House shows. Some of the biggest spenders on rent and communications included Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., and Rep. Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam.

[Downloadable database here.]

Some $37 million of the money was spent on “non-technology service contracts” which went to individuals, companies and some big name contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton and SAIC. While another $35 million was spent on technology related expenses including tech maintenance and web hosting.

Here’s a look at the lawmakers spending the most:

Please disregard this list. Click here for an updated list based on explained methodology.

Pedro Pierluisi, D-Puerto Rico                       $2,117,000
Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.                                    $1,860,000
Jim Costa, D-Calif.                                         $1,764,000
*Dina Titus, D-Nev.                                         $1,742,000
*Scott Murphy, D-N.Y.                                     $1,741,000
Ken Calvert, R-Calif.                                       $1,737,000
Brad Sherman, D-Calif.                                   $1,733,000
*Mary Jo Kilroy, D-Ohio                                   $1,724,000
David Wu, D-Ore.                                            $1,699,000
Laura Richardson, D-Calif.                              $1,688,000

*-Denotes former member

Committee offices spending the most:

Please disregard this list. Committees report their spending using different methods; some report on a fiscal year basis and others on a legislative year. The different methodologies used make it impossible to rank the committees by spending.

Committee on Appropriations                          $31,286,000
Committee on Energy and Commerce            $11,619,000
Joint Committee on Taxation                           $10,325,000
Committee on Transportation-Infrastruction    $9,732,000
Committee on Judiciary                                   $9,659,000
Committee on Financial Service                      $9,229,000
Committee on Ways and Means                      $9,188,000
Committee on Foreign Affairs                          $8,643,000
Homeland Security                                          $8,291,000
Committee on Legislative Counsel                  $8,192,000

A critique of the data

Then-House Speaker Pelosi ordered the Committee on House Administration to publish online quarterly disbursements made by members, committees and other offices in June 2009 and with the most recent release of data, the public has access to a full year of electronic data, albeit published in PDF format. But the data leaves a lot to be desired. In addition to the awkward format, detailed information is unavailable. While members disclose how much they spend on travel, they do not disclose the destinations they went to or the purpose of the trips. Also, terms such as "non-technology service contracts" showing individual or company names as the payees are vague, providing no indication of the purpose of the expenditure.

Also, a change in the methodology in the data released this quarter adds to the ambiguity of the data. Expenditures that previously were divided into many categories are now lumped into fewer categories, making comparisons of this quarter to previous quarters more difficult.

For instance, in previous releases the code for money spent on bottled water was C1, student loan payment was P6 and district office rent was S6. All these codes have now been rolled into one, "AP," which stands for accounts payable. So while using last quarters’ documents this story could be written critiquing the amount Pelosi spent on her California office, it will not be possible to do a similar report using this data in the new format.