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Hultgren, Kinzinger watch expenses, report finds

Congressmen try to avoid lavish use of allowance

Published: Monday, April 15, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, April 15, 2013 4:34 p.m. CDT

Staff members of U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren do not buy new office equipment.

It’s a rule in Hultgren’s office to not purchase new equipment until it is necessary, said spokesman Josh Wessell. He said all equipment is acquired secondhand or from other congressional offices.

“His feeling is that if we have functional equipment that can be used, we can use it as long as we can,” Wessell said.

If something breaks, Wessell said, the first contact is the U.S. House administration office to see whether there’s equipment in storage that can be used before buying equipment.

Hultgren and many of his Republican colleagues have been critics of how the federal government spends its money. Part of that money is given to congressmen as an annual allowance that pays for a congressional office’s travel expenses, staff salaries and equipment purchases.

The congressional offices of Hultgren, R-Winfield, and Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, – DeKalb County’s two representatives in the U.S. House – spent a combined $579,000 between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, according to the Statement of Disbursements of the House, a quarterly report compiled by the House’s chief administrative officer.

Their expenditures during this time period were one-tenth of 1 percent of the total $315 million that all 435 House members spent on staff salaries, travel expenses and equipment purchases.

Daniel J. Strodel, the chief administrative officer for the House, wrote in his report that each member’s 2012 allowance was 88.92 percent of their 2010 allowance. How much individual congressional offices spend is released each quarter of the calendar year.

And they’ll spend less money this year. Wessell said their 2013 allowance was initially reduced by 10 percent, but the sequestration chopped off another 8 percent.

Using these numbers, Hultgren’s 2012 allowance of $1.3 million would be around $1.1 million. Kinzinger’s 2012 allowance of $1.4 million would also be around $1.1 million.

Congressmen have free reign, for the most part, about how they spend their allowance. During this period, Hultgren spent almost $10,000 on mail sent to constituents. Most of that money went to an invitation to a health care and finances forum Hultgren hosted, Wessell said.

“They can spend as much or as little of their [allowance] with the permission of the Franking Commission,” Wessell said.

Congressmen and their staff are also free to spend how much they need to travel. Wessell said they are required to make their travel plans in advance. Because they have such a large district, Kinzinger has required his staffers to submit the most efficient travel route, said spokesman Zach Hunter.

“The congressman tries to run the office in the most fiscally responsible way possible,” Hunter said.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated from a previous version.

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