MPs’ expenses scandal spreads to the US: Capitol Hill snouts also in the trough?
(TELEGRAPH) Politicians spending taxpayers’ money to lease a 2008 luxury Lexus hybrid sedan, a digital camera and two 46-inch Sony TVs, a top-of-the-line laptop for use in hostile environments.
No, not the latest Telegraph revelations of MPs’ expenses in Britain but a report by the Wall Street Journal – inspired by the Telegraph’s scoop – outlining how some members of the United States Congress aren’t averse to treating themselves to a few little luxuries.
There’s much less scope for those on Capitol Hill to line their own pockets in the way that some MPs have done. Members of Congress can’t bill taxpayers for personal living expenses and their allowance covers only “official and representational expenses”.
Members of the House of Representatives get a government expense allowance of $1.3 million to $1.9 million [£800,000 to £1.2 million] a year while Senators get $2.9 million to $4.5 million [£1.8 million to £2.8 million]. The exact amount depends on several variables, the most significant being the distance from Washington DC of the member’s district or state.
But members of Congress are no saints and there’s ample scope beyond expense accounts for them to enrich themselves. Former congressmenRandy “Duke” Cunningham and Bob Ney were jailed on corruption charges in 2006 while William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson is about to go on trial accused of accepting bribes.
Outshining Westminster’s finest, Cunningham helped himself to a Rolls-Royce, a yacht and a 19th-century Louis-Philippe commode while Jefferson will soon have the delicate task of explaining in court just where he’d obtained the $90,000 in cash that the feds found in his freezer.
Here, however, are the highlights of the Capitol Hill expenses claims that the Wall Street Journal singled out. All of them were legal and within congressional rules:
Representative Howard Berman – $84,000 worth of personalised calendars, printed by the US Capitol Historical Society, to be sent to his constituents
Representative Alcee Hastings – $24,730 to lease a 2008 luxury Lexus hybrid sedan
Representative Michael Turner – $1,435 for a digital camera
Eni Faleomavaega, House delegate – $2,946 for two 46-inch Sony TVs
Representative William Jefferson – $2,793 for a Panasonic Toughbook laptop