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 isabsolutely necessary. North Alabama has become all too familiar with theconsequences.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"In my opinion, this is easy to justifyand a responsible part of what a congressional office has to do in order toprotect jobs and in order to look after programs in order to look after issuesthat are important to continuants that want that member of congress to beinformed," said Cramer.

Congressman Brooks' office also saidredistricting in 2013 led to higher costs. The 5th district lost Lawrence andColbert Counties and gained Morgan County. Brooks established an office in theShoals and did outreach to constituents in Morgan County.

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

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

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

It's also important to note, starting in2010, the District 5 budget has been cut by 20 percent. Brooks' office said 8.2percent of that is sequestration; the rest of it is Congress actually voting toreduce its own budget.

*This story has been amended from its initial version tocorrect an error. We previously stated that in the first quarter of2013Congressman Mo Brooks spent 100 percent more on office expenses than he did in 2012. Weshould have stated that he spent 100 percent more on travel in the firstquarter of 2013 than he did in the first quarter of 2012. We regret the error. 

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