GOLDEN HOOKAH WINNER: House Democratic Caucus Charged Taxpayers to Clean Its Dirty Laundry

October 20, 2011 - 1:22 PM

clyburn

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – The House Democratic Caucus charged the taxpayers $1,822.26 for “laundry service” in calendar year 2010, the most charged by any entity or member claiming reimbursements from the U.S. House of Representatives last year, according to the official Statement of Disbursements of the House.

While there are 490 congressional offices, committees, and other entities in the House of Representatives, only a few, including the Democratic Caucus, sought reimbursements in 2010 for laundry services. Neither then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) nor then-Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) charged for laundry service; nor did the House Republican Conference.

The offices that did charge taxpayers for cleaning their laundry and the total cost for those services are as follows:

--Democratic Caucus: $1,822.26

--Then-Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.): $1,355.71

--Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.): $754.24

--Then-Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.): $509.23

--Office of Attending Physician: $438.38

--Rep. John Adler (D-N.J.): $75.00

--Communications: $30.36

--Rep. Anh ‘Joseph’ Cao (R-La.): $19.60

--Clerk of the House: $13.23

--Rep. Donna Christensen (Delegate, Virgin Islands): $10.00

Additionally, the Statement of Disbursements of the House listed $63.60 charged for laundry services by the office of House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and $250.00 charged by the office of Rep. Timothy Bishop (D-N.Y.). However, the offices of both these congressmen said the laundry charges had been erroneously attributed to them. Bishop's office said the charge was actually for standard janitorial services for his district office. Cantor's said the laundry charges attributed to his office actually belonged to the office of then-Majority Whip Clyburn.

house of representatives

U.S. House of Representatives. (AP Photo)

According to the House Democratic Caucus and several of the House members who did charge the taxpayers for laundry services, the charges they filed were for cleaning tablecloths and linens used at official events.

The Statement of Disbursements documents “all receipts and expenditures for the U.S. House of Representatives Members, Committees, Leadership, Officers and Offices,” according to its Web site, where the disbursements can be viewed online. It is published by the chief administrative officer of the House.

Salley Wood, the communications representative at the House Administration Committee, explained to CNSNews.com that some members of Congress have a direct payment system with the House Finance Office but there are also situations where the congressional office “would submit vouchers to the Office of Finance and they either would be reimbursed or that payment would be paid directly to the vendor.”

That was the case with the majority of the “laundry service” charges: a payee and a voucher number were listed with each charge.

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Clothes dryer. (AP Photo.)

In the Democratic Caucus, for example, there was a laundry service charge of $148.54 on Apr. 5, 2010. The payee listed was Srdan Banjac, who is an assistant to House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (D-Conn.), and the voucher number was 10DA0100193.

Ellis Brachman, communications director for the Democratic Caucus, told CNSNews.com: “The Caucus has meetings routinely for the members of the caucus, and that [laundry service] is for tablecloths and other things to prevent excess trash. The table cloths that they do put out get laundered.”

“They were all for laundry” of table cloths and linens, said Brachman. “I think you’re looking at last year’s numbers, which, by the way, was the most meetings ever held during the various pieces that were being done last Congress.”

When asked about the laundry service charges by CNSNews.com, Rep. Clybrun’s communications director, Patrick Devlin, stated in an e-mail: “The laundry service fee was for dry cleaning tablecloths used during dinners during late voting, breakfasts and other whip meetings hosted by Mr. Clyburn as part of his official duties when he was Majority Whip.”

Rep. Hoyer’s press secretary, Maureen Beach, told CNSNews.com in an e-mail that the $509.23 laundry service charges “refer to the cleaning of tablecloths and linens used at official meetings and events.”

john larson

Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), chairman of the Democratic Caucus. (AP Photo)

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) charged the taxpayers $754.24 for laundry service in 2010. The payee listed for those charges was the Jeanne Bussard Center, Inc. According to its Web site, the mission of the Jeanne Bussard Center Inc., in Frederick, Md., “is to promote and provide employment opportunities for people experiencing disabilities through education, training, rehabilitation and work.” The company operates a laundry service.

In an e-mail to CNSNews.com, Bartlett’s press secretary, Lisa Wright, said: “To save taxpayers’ money, several years ago, Congressman Bartlett purchased 112 red table cloths at $11/each v. $23/ea rental. The tablecloths are used at Congressional events that are free to attend and free to exhibit. … The laundry services are provided by the local small business, jeanne bussard, which employs disabled workers.”

Donna Christensen, a Democrat and non-voting delegate from the Virgin Islands, charged $10.00 for laundry service on Nov. 8, 2010. In a telephone conversation with CNSNews.com, Christensen’s spokesperson, Monique C. Watson, said, “Neither she nor I remember what she might have charged for laundry last November. But it’s an allowable expense, if members are staying over. She was in our district but not on our home island, so I don’t know.”

The Republican Conference, in contrast with the Democratic Caucus, did not make any charges for laundry service in 2010. When asked by CNSNews.com by e-mail and telephone how this could have occurred, the Conference communications director, Shannon McGahn, did not respond before this story was posted.

The total amount charged to the taxpayers for laundry services provided to U.S. House offices in 2010 was $5341.61.