Some members of Congress take great pleasure in heralding the amount of unused office funds they return to the U.S. Treasury. So, when Sen. Edward Zorinsky (D-Neb.) said he gave Uncle Sam $355,758.77, we thought it was time to ask just how many generous congressional Zorinskys there are. But Treasury spokesman Bob Levine said only two checks have been received from members of Congress this year: $4,365 from Rep. Andrew Jacobs (D-Ind.) and $2,715 from Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.). Where's Zorinsky's money? He didn't send it to us, Levine said.
Zorinsky aide Art Jaeger acknowledged that, despite press release claims to the contrary, the money didn't really go to the Treasury. Instead, it became part of a $22 million fund run by Senate financial clerk Stuart F. Balderson to pay off debts that, Balderson said, "Many senators don't often realize they have incurred. . . ." Next September, what's left goes back to the Treasury's general fund. The whole exercise amounts to little more than a bookkeeping shuffle. Only if a member of Congress specifically writes a check to the Treasury for unused personal pay does the money really go back there immediately. Balderson said most members don't do that.