By Perry Bacon Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 4, 2009
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said yesterday that the House will soon start posting online quarterly records of how members use their personal office funds, giving watchdog groups a chance to examine staff salaries and other spending by members of Congress.
Congress has long published such information in a volume called the Statement of Disbursements, but it will now be released online, which Pelosi said would increase transparency. The change comes as members of the British Parliament are under fire for spending huge sums of taxpayer money through their public accounts on such expenses as cleaning a moat and having light bulbs installed in their homes.
"Consistent with my goal to increase transparency and ensure greater accountability to the public, please take all steps necessary to ensure that the quarterly Statement of Disbursements be made available online free of charge to the public and on a suitable House website," Pelosi wrote yesterday in a letter to the chief administrative officer of the House.
Watchdog groups have long called for Congress to release more information about how members spend their office funds, which generally range from $1.3 million to $1.6 million for each House member, according to a 2008 report by the Congressional Research Service. (There is variation because of expenses such as mail, which can vary widely depending on a member's district.) The House is expected to start posting the information by Aug. 31.
Members usually spend the vast majority of these funds on their staffs, office expenses and mail. The Senate, whose members get more than $2.7 million each, does not have its spending reports online.