WAFF Investigates: How AL lawmakers spend your tax dollars - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

WAFF Investigates: How AL lawmakers spend your tax dollars

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

During tough times, smart money management is absolutely necessary. North Alabama has become all too familiar with the consequences.

In a time when folks are furloughed and there is sequestration across the nation, is Congress watching how they spend your tax dollars? Since 2009, law requires spending reports be available to the people who pay their salaries.

When it comes to total office expenses, everything from office staff salaries to standard office supplies, in the first quarter of 2012, Representative of Alabama's 3rd district Mike Rogers took the top spot spending nearly $300,000. Compare that to Representative Mo Brooks. He spent the least in the same time period, about $222,000.

But jump to the first quarter of 2013, and Brooks spent 100 percent more. It's more than any other congressman by $30,000 and nearly $100,000 more than the lowest spender, 6th district's Spencer Bachus.

When it comes to total office expenses, everything from office staff salaries to standard office supplies, in the first quarter of 2012, Representative of Alabama's 3rd district Mike Rogers took the top spot spending nearly $300,000. Compare that to Representative Mo Brooks. He spent the least in the same time period, about $222,000.

But jump to the first quarter of 2013, and Brooks spent more than any other congressman by $30,000 and nearly $100,000 more than the lowest spender, 6th district's Spencer Bachus.

I also broke down travel expenses. In 2013 Brooks again led the pack. He spent $16,529.60, about $11,000 more than the frugal flyer Spencer Bachus who spent $5,292.21. In fact, Brooks' 2013 first quarter travel expenses were 100 percent higher than they were for the same time period in 2012 when he spent $8,166.53.

They say every number tells a story, so what is the story behind the spending? We reached out to Congressman Brooks' office but were repeatedly denied an on-camera interview on the topic.

His Press Secretary did send us some answers to our questions via email. She said Brooks' expenses went up for a number of reasons. One reason she pointed to was a rise in plane ticket prices when flying from Alabama to D.C. His office also pointed to an increased need for staff travel because of sequestration, saying D.C. staff needed to be in the district "briefing officials" and "determining needs."

WAFF 48 News wanted to know how those "briefings" and "determining needs" could rack up $30,000 more than his counterparts, but Brooks, nor any other of Alabama's six representatives would agree to an interview. That's after several emails and phone calls to each person. So, we reached out to former 5th district congressman Bud Cramer for perspective.

"In my opinion, this is easy to justify and a responsible part of what a congressional office has to do in order to protect jobs and in order to look after programs in order to look after issues that are important to continuants that want that member of congress to be informed," said Cramer.

Congressman Brooks' office also said redistricting in 2013 led to higher costs. The 5th district lost Lawrence and Colbert Counties and gained Morgan County. Brooks established an office in the Shoals and did outreach to constituents in Morgan County.

"You want to be down here seeing which precincts are considering being transferred in or out of your district," said Cramer. "That is certainly a variable that would play into some travel expenses."

Not to mention, Cramer said districts with more ties to the federal budget - like Brooks' district with NASA and Redstone Arsenal - will usually spend more.

But all the figures share one common denominator – its money spent by people you put in office. Which means it's up to you to decide if their spending is hypocritical or the cost of doing business.

It's also important to note, starting in 2010, the District 5 budget has been cut by 20 percent. Brooks' office said 8.2 percent of that is sequestration; the rest of it is Congress actually voting to reduce its own budget.

*This story has been amended from its initial version to correct an error. We previously stated that in the first quarter of2013 Congressman Mo Brooks spent 100 percent more on office expenses than he did in 2012. We should have stated that he spent 100 percent more on travel in the first quarter of 2013 than he did in the first quarter of 2012. We regret the error. 

Copyright 2013 WAFF. All rights reserved.

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