Rep. Broun’s Budget Depleted by Mailings

Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) reported spending more than 80 percent of his Congressional office budget in the first six months of the year, House records show, leaving the freshman lawmaker with meager funds to meet basic office needs — including staff salaries — through the end of the 110th Congress.

According to quarterly disbursement records released this week by the Clerk of the House, Broun’s office spent $1.139 million through the end of June.

The Georgia lawmaker’s office received a $1.389 million budget for 2008, which leaves it with only $242,399 for operations through December.

While spending records for Broun’s office show staff salaries alone cost $190,000 in the second quarter, the bulk of the Georgian’s bills are related to constituent mail.

In the second quarter, House records show the office spent $242,488 on franked letters in addition another $308,917 on printing and advertising.

In a statement Broun acknowledged his office faces a “shortfall” but defended his prodigious mailing, which occurred as he faced a re-election challenge.

“My office budget has reflected my focus on communicating directly with constituents. That is as it should be, and I make no apology for putting the people first,” he said.

A review of Broun’s mailings, copies of which are maintained by the Clerk of the House, shows a flurry of activity leading up to April 2008. Broun faced a July 15 primary challenge and was prohibited from sending franked mail within 90 days of that election. Critics contend that franked mail is used by incumbents to support their re-election efforts, while Members say it allows them to communicate with constituents.

Each House Member is provided with an annual base budget of about $875,000 and receives additional funds based on the distance between the lawmaker’s district and Washington, D.C., office space rental rates in each district and an “official mail” allowance determined by variables including residential addresses and postage rates.

According to the House disbursement records, each office received at least $1.1 million in 2008 for their Members’ representational allowances, with many budgets, including Broun’s, listed between $1.3 million and $1.4 million.

While it is not unheard of for Members to exceed their budgets — Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) paid $23,000 to the Treasury after overspending his office allowance in the 2004 — it is unusual for an office to do so midyear, according to the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, which monitors account balances for each office.

“What makes this particular instance unique is we have not seen a Member go to the depths in terms of the [Members’ representational allowances] that [Broun] has this early in the year,” spokesman Jeff Ventura said.

“We warn Members when they’re approaching critical mass,” Ventura added. He said the CAO’s office notified Broun’s staff several times about its budget levels.

It is unclear whether Broun has decided to furlough staff — although the Georgian recently parted with his chief of staff, Aloysius Hogan — but in his statement Broun said he has made “administrative adjustments” and vowed not to break his budget. A spokesman did not respond to a request to detail those changes.

Broun’s statement said “some management decisions were discovered that had adversely affected the budget” but did not detail those items. The Georgian said he will continue to review his financial affairs.

“I assure you that in the final analysis there will be no shortfall,” Broun said, and he even vowed: “In fact, we expect to actually return some money to hardworking American taxpayers.”

If a Member exceeds his annual MRA, no other funds are available to the office, and any overdraft may be taken out of a Member’s Congressional salary.