By Stephan Burklin
Recent public reports disclose that Maine’s two congressional representatives and their offices were each reimbursed for over $1.2 million in taxpayer-funded expenses in 2009.
Since 1964, Congress has been required by law to publish quarterly reports of all expenditures for the denizens of the Capitol Building, but these documents have only been available online since December 2009.
As AOL reported earlier this month, Chellie Pingree and her staff recorded more travel reimbursements than any other congressional representative during a nine-month period last year. The average number of trip expenditures during the same time period was 45; Rep. Pingree listed 197.
Willy Ritch, a spokesman for Rep. Pingree, said the high number of reimbursements is the result of the method used to tabulate expenses. Because Rep. Pingree’s staff books flights on discount airlines out of Baltimore, Ritch said, individual flights and train fares to and from the airport are listed as individual reimbursements, leading to a higher aggregate figure.
“It’s more about the way the different expenses were submitted. It’s about bookkeeping, not about how much she’s been traveling,” he said.
Ritch said that Rep. Pingree generally flies home every weekend on US Airways from Reagan National Airport. To his knowledge, he said Rep. Pingree does not fly on privately chartered jets.
In 2009, Rep. Pingree’s office racked up a $1.2 million taxpayer-reimbursed bill. The aggregate figure includes nearly $80,000 on mailings, $800,000 on staff salaries, $65,000 on travel, $85,000 on rent and utilities at her office in Portland, $85,000 on printing materials and other office supplies, as well as $30,000 on equipment.
Maine’s other congressional representative, Michael Michaud, was reimbursed for $100,000 more than Pingree last year, or $1.3 million.