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"We were able to be generous because we were extremely tight with our budget this year," said Randy Swanson, chief of staff to freshman Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who gave out the second-highest bonuses at 65 percent of the average salary. "And we paid people from the start less than we would have liked to." Hughes pointed out that Moran has returned more than $1 million in unused office money to the Treasury since being elected.
Maybe bonuses shouldn't reflect badly on lawmakers, Congressional Management Foundation President Brad Fitch said.
"Most private-sector businesses have merit-based incentives to encourage retention," Fitch said. "We hope Congress tries to emulate that."