This is the amount spent on bottled water in one year by the members of the House of Representatives.
No campaign funds; it’s all taxpayer money.
We recently learned quite a bit about the Congressional food and beverage tab.
In 2009, Speaker Nancy Pelosi initiated the online publication of the Statement of Disbursements, a report of all receipts and expenditures for Members of Congress, including individual budgets and the allowances they are given to run their D.C. and district offices.
The Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that’s all about governmental accountability and transparency, slogged through the disbursements database to create spending portraits for every member of the House of Representatives (the Senate has said it will begin reporting later this year). This first data dump covered a 9-month period, from July 2009 through March 2010. The amounts cited refer to this 9-month span (only bottled water spending was annualized by Corporate Accountability International).
Here are some of the more revealing expenditures:
The 435 Representatives spent a combined $2.6 million on food and beverages for themselves and their staff members. Only $152 at Quiznos.
The single biggest spender was a new guy, Gregorio Sablan, who was elected in 2008 as the first nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives from the Northern Mariana Islands.
The top-spending office holds the purse strings for the Congressional Pages, the hungry teenagers who run errands and perform grunt work for House members. The Democratic Caucus held down second place mostly due to the food costs of a single $115,000 weekend getaway, when the legislators ate very well in Williamsburg, Va.
The hungriest House Committee was Foreign Affairs—with five times the food spending as number two Homeland Security.
Asleep at the wheel?
A surprisingly modest $84,794 went to coffee vendors—not even a pound a week for each Rep’s office.
The afternoon pick-me-up of choice is Coke, not Pepsi. For both parties.
About that water…
It irks because it’s such an out-sized expense—nearly one-fourth of all food and beverage spending.
And an unnecessary one; every office could be outfitted with refrigerated, filtered water coolers and fountains for a fraction of what’s being spent on single-use plastic bottles.
It sends the wrong message about our public water supply from the elected body that’s responsible for repairing and expanding our clean drinking water infrastructure. The area’s water utility, DC Water, has even offered to provide every Congressional office with tap water quality testing kits and reusable water bottles free of charge.
And of course it’s troubling because we all know that bottled water is an environmental disaster.
$860,000. That’s enough to fund a dozen or so elementary school teachers, or train 100 new associate nurses, or subsidize a year’s worth of free lunches for thousands of schoolchildren.
Tell the House how you feel. Sign the petition at Change.org asking Speaker Boehner and the Congressional Representatives to cut wasteful spending, keep plastic out of landfills, and eliminate bottled water purchases from the House budget.
You can peruse the complete House Expenditures Report Database on the Sunlight Foundation’s website.