• Report shows taxpayer money used for big bonuses in Washington

    By: Scott MacFarlane


    WASHINGTON - A Channel 2 Action News investigation has found your tax money has paid for some big bonuses on Capitol Hill.

    Channel 2's Scott MacFarlane reviewed federal records and found nearly all of Georgia's members of Congress coughed up money for some last minute pay hikes for their top aides and strategists in the final weeks in 2012.

    MacFarlane reviewed office budget data.  He also studied findings of a report from the Washington, D.C. research group Legistorm, which says every Georgia U.S. House Member, except John Lewis, increased the average salary of staffers in the final weeks of 2012.

    All of them hiked average staff salaries between 1 percent and 35 percent between October and December 2012.

    MacFarlane found tax dollars paid for nearly $350,000 in added pay for Georgia congressional aides late last year.

    "I think what gets people jazzed up about congressional bonuses is that it comes from the taxpayer," researcher Garrett Snedeker from Legistorm told MacFarlane.

    This is a particularly sensitive issue now because the bonuses were handed out on the eve of huge federal budget cuts which could lead to furloughs and pay cuts for so many government workers.

    Representatives Phil Gingrey, Rob Woodall, Lynn Westmoreland, Paul Broun and Jack Kingston when asked about bonus pay said they also returned some of their office budget money to the U.S. Treasury.

    David Scott's spokesman said though there were some pay increases at the end of 2012 the staff had gone years without pay hikes.

    Georgia U.S. House members were far from alone. In all, U.S. House members doled out millions of dollars in last-minute salary bonuses back in 2010.

    One former congressional staffer told MacFarlane that Congress doesn't offer severance and the job market is bleak.

    John Lewis's spokeswoman said her office decided to cut pay of staffers last year to avoid layoffs.

    "The cuts were painful and staffers with families were significantly affected," his spokeswoman told MacFarlane.

    Though average staffer pay increased, overall payroll for Reps. Rob Woodall and Sanford Bishop declined, according to the report.

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