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DHS Is House Office Security King

Homeland Security Gets Paid Well to Protect District Offices

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In the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), private companies have made tens of thousands of dollars off upgraded security contracts with Members of Congress.

But the biggest winner may be the federal government.

House records show that the top recipient of Congressional money for security services this year is the Department of Homeland Security.

Members of Congress paid nearly $73,000 to the agency over the first quarter of 2011 in exchange for the protection of district offices in federal buildings, according to the House's statement of disbursements.

Spokesmen for Members in those offices confirmed that tenants of federal buildings must pay a portion of the total security cost for the building. The cost can vary from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars based on location, size of the building and number of tenants.

But the costs add up. The total paid to the DHS is about $20,000 more than what Members spent on every other security company combined. The next-closest recipient of House dollars for security was ADT Security Services, the company House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood recommended to Members after Giffords was shot at a January town hall meeting.

Thirty-nine Members opted to use ADT, which took in more than $12,800 in the first quarter of this year. Most Members, however, decided to enlist the services of private companies in their districts.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, for instance, spent $7,234.86 on security services from Tyler, Texas-based East Texas Alarm, Inc. to upgrade his office in that city. He spent the second-most of all House Members on security services and the most on a private company.

"Right after the event happened, his first priority was to secure the office," the Republican's deputy chief of staff, Justin Tanner, said. "Afterwards, we had the local FBI agent from the local office come in and inspect all our security upgrades and the local FBI office said they were sufficient."

The incident also sparked Rep. Corrine Brown to upgrade security features in her Jacksonville and Orlando, Fla., offices at a cost of $4,147.50, spokesman David Simon said. The Democrat hired Protection 1 Security Solutions, a nationwide company with several offices in Florida, though Scott would not comment on the specifics.

Rep. Hank Johnson incurred a $4,753 bill, mostly from A-Abbot Safe & Lock Co. for new locks, magnetic systems and security buzzers for the inner and outer entry doors at his Lithonia, Ga., office, the Democrat's spokesman said.

The biggest spender on security services, though, was Rep. John Olver.

The Democrat pays $2,429.89 every month to the DHS to protect his Pittsfield, Mass., office in the Conte Federal Office Building, in addition to smaller sums to ADT and another company to protect his two other district offices.

"The Department of Homeland Security provides a security checkpoint for entry similar to what you see when you enter the Congressional office buildings or other federal buildings in D.C. — an armed guard, a metal detector and an X-ray machine," said Olver's chief of staff, Hunter Ridgeway. "DHS bills us, and we don't have a choice on the matter as long as we are in that building."

The payment is inflated at the moment, Ridgeway added, because the building is not full. When more tenants move in, he said, they expect the monthly security fee to drop.

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