Congress members sleep in offices to save money on rent
Up to 50 representatives have elected not to rent apartments in Washington. Some say housing is too expensive, and others want to make a statement.
They haven't joined the "The Rent Is Too Damn High Party," but at least 33 members of Congress are having a nightly pajama party, deciding they'd rather sleep in their offices than pay rent for an apartment in Washington, D.C.
Like everything in Washington, this has turned into a political brouhaha. Rep. Hansen Clarke, D-Mich., even appeared on the "Today" show in his pajamas.
- Lifestyle: Dealing with a noisy roommate
Freshman Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., said he decided to sleep in his office after seeing a 600-square-foot studio for $2,000 a month. "I'm not doing this as a political stunt," he told The Wall Street Journal. "I'm doing this because I'm a cheap b------."
Rent in Washington is expensive, but we've known plenty of journalists who have managed to rent apartments on significantly lower salaries than the $174,000 a year that Congress members make. Use "Capitol Hill" as your search term on the Washington Craigslist, and you'll find a variety of places listed starting at about $1,200 a month.
Some Congress members say they're making a political statement by sleeping in their offices, even though it doesn't save taxpayers any money, because members of Congress have to pay for their own housing.
"I don't want to be comfortable in Washington because I need to get back to metro Detroit," Clarke told the WSJ shortly after his election. "Businesses are struggling right now. Families are struggling. I'm only in Washington to work."
The organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics has filed an official complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics, arguing that the sleepover members of Congress are getting a tax break by getting free housing, plus they're making personal use of public resources. Since the offices don't have showers, the resident Congress members shower in the House gym.
The Wall Street Journal explains how the practice has waxed and waned in recent decades, with some House leaders opposing and some supporting the practice.
"House office buildings are not dorms or frat houses," said Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics. "If members didn't want to find housing in Washington, they shouldn't have run for Congress in the first place."
And, she added: "Who wants to run into a member of Congress in need of a shower wandering the halls in sweats or a robe?"
What are these persons who sleep in their office doing? Do they bath or use the bathroom? Unless they are having
their bathroom, water, etc. brought in, they are using the "peoples" money for this, or they are costing the District
of Columbia more money (the District of Columbia who does not have voting representation in Congress. We have to pay for the water, plumbing etc in these buildings. Plus is it sanitary? If their constituents want to visit their office, is that possible? If they are using any facilities at the Capitol, why not let some of our homeless come in and take a
bath from time to time.
The city I live in, Birmingham, AL, has zoning laws that prohibit anyone taking up residency in a structure that has been zoned as a commercial property. Technically, this applies to even sleeping one night in a commercial building, though that is not enforced. My husband does building maintenance for a large property management company. And, he occasionally comes across evidence that someone is living in their office (in one case, an entire family was living in a suite rented out by the business owner). He has to report it to the property managers. If the tenant will not move their residency, it gets turned over to the Fire Marshall since it is a life safety violation.
I imagine a lot of cities have these laws on their books. So, the question in my mind is are they breaking any laws according to the DC ordinances? If so, they shouldn't do it. If not, well then I still don't have a lot of sympathy for someone who still makes more than the average American whining about the cost of living. As others have pointed out here, they should have taken this cost into consideration when they made the decision to run in the first place. Wouldn't it be a tax deduction for them anyway?
I understand they don't want to shell out a lot of money if they are only there on a temporary, part-time basis. But, as the article points out, they should consider the option of finding a roommate with one of their fellow representatives who is in the same boat. Or, better yet, build them dorms. I would rather not see that done on the tax payer's dollar, but maybe some builder with a little entrepreneurial spirit could either build the building or renovate an existing structure. For a cost lower than the existing rent, the can get a private room with a king size bed, desk, cable & high speed internet access, and access to communal bathroom facilities on each floor. Think European Hostel style.
Every Congressman has a staff of a few people. I don't see anything in this article about the staff members bunking with their boss in his/her office. That's because, unlike their cheap bosses, these people had to find apartments, pay rent, and find the best way to get to work.
These Congressmen are also hypocrites. Many of them deride welfare pay outs, but aren't they doing the same thing by living in their offices? They're "living" in government "housing" too.
Maybe DC Social Services needs to pay them a visit to determine if they're entitled to government housing and if not, throw them out.
Claims of frugality or solidarity with their consitutuents back home by members of
Congress in justifying this practice of free rent is just not supportable. As a previous poster showed every member of Congress sleeping in their office is guilty of tax evasion (2nd homes MUST be declared or free employer provided housing on tax returns)) and their choice to not pay for a second residence doesn't save taxpayers a dime.
As for their income, Congress voted in 1994 to have an automatic pay raise, after seeing how voting themselves a raise every year was so politically unpopular. Per diems, cafeteria credits, health club memberships, transportation subsidies, staff expansions, etc. all expand their income to well over $200,000 per year. Please take a moment to read my article on this subject at Newsvine.com titled NOBILITY AMONG US.
I would enjoyed any thoughtful feedback or debate. Any partisan mudslinging or spamming is not welcome.
Like or dislike. Agree or disagree, sleeping in your taxpayer-provided free office is out and out TAX EVASION. As a financial professional for more than three decades, I know that makes these "patriots" tax felons. Since the tax laws require us to declare as income such living quarters provided for free.
If you or I were assigned to a job in Washington, D.C., and we chose to keep our house back home, we would have to rent an apartment or buy a second home in D.C. If our employer provided an apartment or house for us, the company could write it off as an expense -- an expense that would show up on our W-2 as miscellaneous additional income, and we would owe income tax on that amount. So, whatever the average rental is in D.C., that amount must be declared as income by the member of Congress who sleeps in his office.