Tuesday, December 01, 2009

What is about politicians and spending tax dollars on flowers???

The Drudge Report has a link to this story from Politico about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spending $2,993 on flowers.

At first, I thought, that's not bad, considering that she's the speaker and she probably has to send flowers to people who are sick, who just had a baby or to funerals.

But then I found out that it's taxpayer money!

When I was in office, it never even occurred to me to spend public money on flowers for my office. In fact, if I wanted flowers for a special guest or some special event, I paid for them myself. I also used my personal funds for flowers for funerals, births, and other such events, even though I know that many elected officials use their campaign funds for such expenses (which is allowed under Ohio law).

Then there was this explanation:

"...about a third of her flower expenses this quarter were for Jack Kemp’s funeral."

Why in the world would any tax dollars be spent on Jack Kemp's funeral, much less nearly $1,000?????

This is insane! Especially from an elected official who can certainly afford to pay for these things from her personal funds.

According to 2008 Roll Call article, Pelosi's net worth was almost $19 million in 2007.

The Californian’s net worth rose nearly 16 percent in 2007, adding $2.5 million to her personal wealth.

Among her assets, Pelosi lists a Norden, Calif., town house valued at $1 million to $5 million and a real estate investment in Napa, Calif., worth at least $500,000.

In addition, her husband owns a commercial property in San Francisco valued at $5 million to $25 million. In 2006, the property was listed as worth $1 million to $5 million, so that property alone added $4 million to Pelosi’s net worth last year.

The couple also owns a vineyard in St. Helena, Calif., valued at $5 million to $25 million.

The Speaker’s husband also increased tenfold his holdings in Apple Computer Inc. stock to at least $5 million, up from a minimum of $500,000 in 2006.

Pelosi and her husband also owe mortgage debt on several of their properties, including the vineyard, totaling at least $8.75 million.

Other debts listed by Pelosi include lines of credit totaling at least $3.5 million.

And she has to spend tax dollars on flowers for a funeral????

That's not all:

Pelosi, who has come under fire in the past for spending on flowers, also spent roughly $30,610 in food and beverage and about $2,740 on bottled water...

But she's not the only one. According to the article:

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) racked up about $24,617 in catering costs. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) spent about $1,561 in bottled water and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) spent no money on water but a touch over $18,000 in food. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) spent about $24,116 on food and beverage.

We've got politicians and media celebrating the number of people who are dependent upon government for food via the food stamp program, and bemoaning the fact that too many who are eligible are not signed up. They spin this saying it indicates that too many people in the country are going hungry. But they think nothing of spending the hard-earned tax dollars of those very same people on food for themselves and staff and some guests?

Hey - here's a thought: Maybe if the government didn't take so much money out of the pockets of those taxpayers, they'd have enough funds to pay for their own food!

The good news, though, is that this report, which usually takes up 4 printed books about 3 inches thick - each quarter, is now on line. I've looked through the books in the past, as they are only available in person in a room in the basement of one of one of the Congressional office buildings.

But now, you and I and everyone else will know exactly how our representatives are spending our money - and it won't take a trip to D.C. to find out.

The largest expenses for our area representatives, Marcy Kaptur and Bob Latta, are their staffs. Kaptur has 17 full-time and one part-time employee. Latta has 15 full-time employees and two listed as 'shared staff.' Here are their expenses (you can click for a larger image):

If my addition is correct, Kaptur spent $1,065.61 on food, beverages and bottled water in the third quarter. Latta spent $874.19. It appears that much of the food & beverage expenses are reimbursement to staff for various meals. Latta has higher equipment expenses because he is still paying for the computers for his office, being a new congressman. The 'other services' category covers software and web hosting. The 'franked mail' all has to be approved by another congressional office to ensure that it is appropriate for tax funding.

Copies of all franked mail are available in that same basement office, but they are not yet on line. What I found interesting when I looked at these files earlier in the year was that even letters sent out are sometimes considered 'franked mail' when they are sent to multiple individuals. Most of the franked mail are newsletters, though notices of local meetings are also included.

I didn't see anything that looked outrageous in the Kaptur and Latta expenditures, though I will wait until the fourth quarter to see if Kaptur again uses public money to purchase and imprint calendars to give away like she's done in the past.

The fact that these reports are now available electronically is both good and bad news. Good - in that we can keep track of how our elected officials spend our money. Bad - in that we see how outrageous some of those expenditures are.

The information is there - it's up to us to take advantage of it.

1 comment:

Roman said...

Many of these "expences" are wrong on many levels.

To me, the most irritating part of this is that the Members act as if this is the way it should be. They are entitled to spend tax dollars, for whatever reason they deem necessary, no questions asked!

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