House Lagging on Public Posting of Expenses

by Pearl Hahn

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered the House Chief Administrative Officer earlier this year to post expenses of House members online as soon as possible. Yet, the deadline for doing so has passed (three months and counting). Presently, there is no plan in place for the Senate to follow suit. Part of the hold-up is coming from the Committee on House Administration, which claims that security and support issues are delaying publication of the expenses.

Security issues aside, the public should be made privy to all expenditures billed by members of Congress using taxpayer money, especially in light of what items they are buying. The Wall Street Journal reported that Florida Representative Alcee Hastings spent nearly $25,000 for a 2008 luxury Lexus sedan. Ohio Rep. Michael Turner bought a $1,435 digital camera. House delegate from Samoa, Eni Faleomavaega, purchased two large screen Sony televisions at $1,473 apiece. Rep. William Jefferson from Louisiana spent $2,793 on a Panasonic laptop.

During his campaign, President Obama vowed to restore the public’s faith in government. To that end, he worked with Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla) to push the Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 in Congress. Together, they created USASpending.gov, a web site that posts contracts and grants.  While Congress demands spending transparency from companies receiving stimulus funds, it would be wise to lead the charge themselves.

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