Ex-House speakers get public-funded perks for 5 years. That seems excessive.
Anna Douglas writes for McClatchy:
Former U.S. House speakers are entitled to taxpayer-funded offices, franked mail privileges, staffers and furniture. Now two House of Representatives members want the practice stopped.
Former speakers are allowed to run post-speaker offices for up to five years. Former Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., spent $1.8 million. John Boehner, R-Ohio, who stepped down 18 months ago, spent $211,000.
A five-year allowance is one of the privileges that create an “elected elite,” said former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who did not set up a post-speaker office. But, the Georgia Republican told McClatchy, a short-term post-speaker office may be warranted if the person needs to wrap up local district casework to or has a large amount of records to preserve and file.
Nonsense, says Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. He wants to eliminate the post-speaker expenses, arguing that the former lawmakers have ample opportunity to pursue careers and make money in the private sector. Along with Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., he’s pushing legislation to end the system.
“As our country nears $20 trillion in debt, why should the taxpayer be forced to pay for a person that no longer serves in Congress, especially when they have the ability to make millions in retirement from speaking fees, book deals, lobbying and other things?” Jones asks.
The office has been barely noticed since it was created in 1971, but it did recently attract controversy. Hastert was accused in a 2013 civil lawsuit of using post-speaker office funds for private business expenses. Hastert, who maintained his post-speaker office in his home state of Illinois, denied misusing the money and the case was dismissed this month.
Hastert was indicted on separate federal charges in 2015 and pleaded guilty to a financial crime. He’s now in a Minnesota medical center prison facility, serving a 15-month sentence that started last June.
In the case against him, federal prosecutors said Hastert had been regularly withdrawing large sums of cash to pay off someone. Later, he admitted he’d sexually abused young boys decades earlier when he worked as a high school coach in Yorkville, Illinois. The money involved in the case had been paid to help cover up the past abuses.
Jones said he had learned about the post-speaker privilege from a news article published in CQ Roll Call in late 2015, after Boehner left Congress. Jones said his bill wasn’t specific to Boehner’s case, but he thinks Hastert’s example shows how unwarranted the expense is. Hastert used the post-speaker office for about four years.
“Meanwhile, he was making big money as a Washington, D.C., lobbyist and had the disposable income to pay $1.7 million to someone who was blackmailing him over allegedly molesting young boys,” Jones said in 2015 about Hastert. . .