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Senate secretary withholding senators’ spending in violation of federal law

The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. (Dreamstime/TNS)
April 12, 2022

Officials in the United States Senate are ignoring federal law that requires senators to disclose official expenses. Although senators have provided the information, the Secretary of the Senate has failed to publicly disclose Senators’ expense reports for almost a year, with the last expenditures reported through the end of March 2021.

On the Secretary of the Senate’s website, a notice that states: “The semi-annual Report of the Secretary of the Senate for the period April 1, 2021 – September 30, 2021 is delayed and will be published as soon as possible.”

Just above the notice, the website highlights the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, which required “the posting of the semiannual Report of the Secretary of the Senate on the Senate website.”

“Since 1823, the secretary of the Senate has published the semiannual statements covering the periods from October 1st to March 31st and April 1st to September 30th of each year,” the website continues.

According to Jock Friedly, CEO of the legislation research service LegiStorm, the report has not seen significant delays in nearly 20 years.

“Neither the House nor the Senate have been delayed significantly since we began gathering salary data in 2005,” Jock Friedly, the CEO of legislative research service LegiStorm, told Axios this week. “Until now, the disclosures have always come out like clockwork.”

The report provides voters with details regarding official expenditures, including staff salaries. Americans are legally entitled to the financial information that the Senate Secretary has failed to publish.

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), who won his race during a special election last year, has next to no expense information available. While senators have no control over posting the information they provide to the secretary, voters in Warnock’s state should already be able to review his office’s expense report.

“First, Warnock’s office is reporting the required information,” a spokesman for the senator told Axios. “Second, it is not remarkable that he has the least amount of information — it’s a feature of him being sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021. Finally, not one Senate office has any information beyond March 2021.”

On the other side of Congress, House officials have successfully posted their equivalent reports on time, providing both voters and Congressional staffers with legally-required transparency.

“The lack of disclosure is a violation of law but also hampers the ability of staffers to understand the scope of the problem, and how their pay compares with others,” Friedly said, adding that it “makes it impossible for the public to understand fully how dangerous political rhetoric is driving up security costs to protect lawmakers and their staff.”