(CNSNews.com) - Then-House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) spent $16,176.04 in tax dollars last year to keep his House leadership office stocked with “bottled water” and “food & beverages” purchased from Joe Ragan’s Coffee, a Washington, D.C.-area office supply and coffee vendor, according to records published by the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the House of Representatives.
By comparison, then-Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D.-Md.) spent $17,945.17 for “food & beverage” services provided by the Corner Bakery, a pastry and coffee shop chain. (See related story here.)
Most of the tax money Boehner spent at Joe Ragan’s--$14,636.05 of it—was for services itemized in the CAO’s reports as “food & beverage” purchases. However, Boehner also spent $1,540.99 in tax dollars on “bottled water” provided by Joe Ragan’s.
Over the course of calendar year 2010, Boehner’s House minority leader’s office made 71 purchases from Joe Ragan’s Coffee. These included 37 purchases of bottled water and 34 of food and beverage. Boehner’s average purchase from Joe Ragan’s was $228. (See chart - Boehner's Office Expenditures)
The largest payment Boehner’s minority leader’s office made to Joe Ragan’s was for $1,328.27 for “food & beverage” services provided on Nov. 4, 2010—two days after the Nov. 2, 2010 congressional election.
The smallest payment Boehner’s office made to Joe Ragan’s was $5.53 for “food & beverage” services provided on January 25, 2010.
Members of Congress are given annual allowances to pay for staff salaries and other expenses associated with running their offices. Members of the House leadership are given larger allowances to run their leadership offices.
Congressional funding bills for fiscal 2010—which ran from Oct. 1, 2009 until Sept. 30, 2010—appropriated about $5.1 million for the House speaker’s office, $4.6 million for the House minority leader’s office and $2.5 million for the House majority leader’s office.
In calendar year 2010, Boehner’s House minority leader’s office actually spent about $3,241,203.70, according to the CAO’s reports. Of that, $137,414.79 was spent on “supplies and materials”—the general category that includes members’ “food & beverage” and “bottled water” purchases.
The $16,176.04 that Boehner’s House minority leader’s office paid to Joe Ragan’s Coffee for food, beverages and bottled water amounted to about 12 percent of the overall $137,414.79 that Boehner’s office spent in the “supplies and materials” category and 0.5 percent of the total Boehner spent to run his office.
According to the House rules that govern the spending allowances awarded to House members, the allowance may only be used “for official and representational expenses” and not “for any expenses related to activities or events which are primarily social in nature.” House members are also barred from using the allowance for personal, campaign, political or committee expenses.
The Members’ Congressional Handbook, published by the House Administration Committee, says: “Members and employees may be reimbursed for food and beverage expenses incidental to an official and representational meeting that includes a person(s) who is not a Member or employee of the House. Members and employees may not be reimbursed for food and beverage expenses related to social activities or social events (e.g. hospitality, receptions, entertainment, holiday or personal celebrations, and swearing-in or inauguration day celebrations). Members and employees may not be reimbursed for the cost of alcoholic beverages.”
However, a spokesperson for the House Administration Committee said that this committee guideline does not cover the House leadership offices, including the offices of the speaker and the majority and minority leaders. These offices are covered directly by House ethics rules and statutes. “House Rules and statutes address the use of official funds and apply to House Leadership offices,” Administration Committee Spokeswoman Salley Wood told reporter Matt Cover of CNSNews.com. “They also permit such purchases.”
Each quarter, the chief administrative officer of the House of Representatives publishes a report—“Statement of Disbursements of the House”--itemizing the expenditures of all House leadership offices, membership offices and committees.
Joe Ragan’s Coffee provides businesses with coffee services, kitchen supplies, and purified water—as well as office furniture and stationary supplies.
Calls and emails from CNSNews.com to Boehner’s Spokesman Michael Steel seeking more information about Boehner’s purchases from Joe Ragan’s did not elicit a response.
“Joe Ragan’s hand-selects only the finest Arabica beans available. We take only the best of the best, and roast them to our own secret recipe,” says an explanation of Joe Ragan’s coffee service says on the company’s website.
“You can even get a single-cup gourmet brewer for delicious brewed espresso, mocchachino and regular or decaffeinated coffee that tastes as good as what you'd drink in the finest restaurants,” says the Joe Ragan website. “The cost to you will be just pennies, not dollars, per cup.”
“We specialize in beverages and snacks for your business,” says the Joe Ragan website. “We offer everything from cases of sodas and soft drinks, to spring and bottled waters, to bottled fruit juices, to name brand snacks and break room foods.”
“In 2000, we constructed our exclusive water purification facility, enabling us to produce our own fresh and purified bottled water every day,” says the site. “Now your office can enjoy the clean and refreshing taste of water from Joe Ragan’s in the best water coolers available.”
House Administration Committee Spokeswoman Wood told CNSNews.com that Boehner's purchases of bottled water and food and beverage services were within House Rules and statutes.
“House Rules and statutes all address the use of official funds and all apply to House Leadership offices,” said Wood. “The use of official funds for such purchases [from Joe Ragan’s Coffee] does not violate any of the above.”