The Winston Salem Journal has a piece up today about how North Carolina's 13 members of congress utilize their office budgets. First sentence:
WASHINGTON - Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-10th, bought a flat-screen television for $2,020.
So, Patty Mac says he is using his television for live town halls. I thought the in thing with the Republicans were the tele town halls which use the telephone, not the television.
Hmmmm....wouldn't live via-satellite town halls run into the same problems that live in-person town halls do? The tele town halls sound pretty effective from the information I can find. Why is Patty Mac spending so much money on flat screen televisions to hold live via satellite town halls? We all know how busy a single man with no family to tend to and no business responsibilities can be. All those family and business demands on his time make it more difficult for him to see his constituents in person.
One category that caught my eye was the home-to-DC-to district travel expenses. Robin Hayes leads in that category. Andrew Duke, his chief of staff, wants us to believe that Flipper has to pay between $800 and $900 to fly into Charlotte at the government rate. I have one thing to say, Andrew, "Expedia, Man, Expedia!"
I know, I know, that rate is probably first class at government rate. If it isn't though, Andrew, you're allowing the taxpayers to get robbed. [Note: I have no problem with members of congress flying first class with a negotiated reduced government rate. I think they should be required to donate their frequent flier miles, though. :) ]
Franking privileges are another huge expense for members of congress. The Journal ran a piece not long ago that showed Virginia Foxx as the biggest user of franked mail privileges. Keep in mind that this comes out of each members personal office budget, but also keep in mind that they aren't required to spend their entire budget either.
I thought Shaffrey and Litten did a decent job with this article until I got to this quote:
Andy Taylor is a political-science professor at N.C. State University who has studied franking practices.
"The people who use it most are from competitive districts, or people who were not elected by wide margins," he said. "Liberals also tend to use it more, which is interesting. Conservatives, for the most part, just see it as a symbol of big government spending."
What? Andy Taylor might be a really smart guy, but why would Shaffrey and Litten include this quote without showing how it doesn't apply to North Carolina? How sloppy and unprofessional and usually I like Shaffrey's work.
The numbers being used are 2006 numbers when there were seven Republicans and six Democrats. Republicans spent $791,413 on franked mail and Democrats spent $321,839 total. Republicans averaged $113,059 each and Democrats averaged $53, 640 each. Maybe Andy Taylor would like to revise his comment as it applies to North Carolina's congressional delegation or maybe Shaffrey and Litten would like to provide a quote that doesn't completely contradict the data.
Any claims that the Republicans are far more fiscally conservative than the Democrats can be thrown out the window as well. Add up what each spent from their budgets, total the Dems and the Reps and find the average. With each office averaging a little over $1,200,000 regardless of party, the Dems outspent the Republicans by an average of only $435.
I haven't reviewed any budgets and don't really know if there's fat anywhere to trim. I just found it curious that our borrow and spend Republican fiscal conservatives weren't any better at budgeting than our tax and spend Democrats. Their bottom lines are almost identical.