Adam Andrzejewski, the founder and CEO of transparency nonprofit Open the Books, told Breitbart News Daily that Congress needs “full transparency” and reform behind its perks, pensions, and taxpayer-funded trips.
Open the Books released its congressional oversight report on Friday, which details Congress’s lavish salaries, pensions, perks, and slush funds.
Andrzejewski noted that congressional lawmakers are part of an exclusive club.
“Congress is an exclusive club. So think about this, Alex, over the course of the nation’s history, there’s been 550 million Americans since the founding of the country. Currently, there are 330 million people in the country. Now, elected to the House of Representatives, there’s been a little over 10,000 since our founding,” he told Breitbart News Daily host Alex Marlow. “In the Senate, it’s been even more exclusive; there have been only 1,300 people ever elected to the United States Senate.”
In contrast, Andrzejewski said, “On salary, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she actually makes the most, even outearning anybody in the United States Senate. She makes $223,000 a year.”
Andrzejewski revealed that congressional lawmakers could earn “outside income” from federal contractors.
For instance, Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), who represents the congressional district that holds Vanderbilt University, has earned roughly $250,000 in total salary as an adjunct professor at the university.
He explained the conflict of interest between Vanderbilt and Cooper, saying, “Vanderbilt University is a federal contractor based in his district. They put him as an adjunct professor for 13 years; they paid him a grand total of a quarter-million dollars over that period in salary. During just five years during that 13 years, the university received $2.5 billion in federal contracts, grants, and direct payments via the congressman that serves on the budget committee and House Oversight and Government Reform, and lo and behold, Vanderbilt’s executives and employees are Cooper’s number one career campaign contributor. Even the chancellor of the school was giving him five-figure campaign donations. Collectively, those executives and employees of Vanderbilt have given Cooper $135,000.”
As for congressional pensions, Andrzejewski noted that the American taxpayer funds “those pensions. We guarantee those pensions, and, Alex, we don’t have a right to see those pensions under existing federal law.”
Further, lawmakers that have committed felonies have not been stripped of their federally-funded pensions.
“We reached out to the Office of Personnel Management; they wouldn’t comment on [former Rep. Corrine Brown’s (D-FL)] case specifically, but they did say they could confirm that no member of Congress was ever stripped of their federal pension because of their public corruption conviction,” he said.
Federal courts convicted former Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) of 23 counts of racketeering, fraud, and other corruption charges, and he was sentenced to ten years in jail. However, he continues to collect his pension even though he is currently in prison.
Sens. Mike Braun (R-IN) and Rick Scott (R-FL) introduced legislation in February 2019 that would end taxpayer-funded pensions. Braun said that the bill would help drain the swamp.
Lawmakers can also travel across the world on the taxpayers’ dime, although they rarely visit active areas in conflict such as Iraq or Afghanistan.
Andrzejewski said, “We took a look at this: since 2005, most members of Congress, their committee staffers, they embarked on 16,300 during that period. Look, the top destinations weren’t the war zones; they were Israel, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the United Arab Emirates.”
“Last year, in the U.S. House, they spent over four million dollars on overseas travel. We combed through their disclosures and the top destination wasn’t a war zone, it was France,” he added.
“In a one-week trip in August that we found, Ed Perlmutter — he’s a Democrat from Colorado — he spent $23,000 on a one-week trip to Australia,” Andrzejewski said.
As Congress became embroiled during the Me Too movement after a series of sexual assault accusations, the public called for increased transparency towards Congress’ alleged “slush fund” to settle workplace disputes, which includes sexual assault allegations.
Andrzejewski explained, “Congress writes the rules, so they wrote this ‘slush fund’ in for themselves. I would feel a lot better about this if there was full transparency for the money that they were spending if they were to bail themselves out of hot water. Now, this fund is administered through the Office of Compliance; money for this fund is paid to settle workplace disputes on Capitol Hill. Now, since 1997, settlements total nearly $18 million, for merely 300 cases, had an average payout of $65 grand apiece, so it’s pretty significant money.”
Andrzejewski lamented that then-Rep. and now Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sponsored a bill to increase transparency on the congressional settlement fund, and it did not gain traction.
He said, “At the height of the Me Too movement, then-Representative Ron DeSantis, he put legislation into Congress to open up that fund and put full transparency on it. We were involved in reviewing that bill, and he submitted it. It was a good piece of legislation, and guess what, Alex? It went nowhere.”
Andrzejewski said that Congress spends too little time on cutting waste and fraud in its congressional budgets. He said that Congress needs reform and “full transparency” to help cut out the waste, fraud, and abuse.
He said that Congress is “passing bills so quickly that they don’t know what’s in the bill.”
“Not representative democracy if our legislators don’t even know what’s in the bill,” Andrzejewski added. He charged that Congress has plenty of time to “return to regular order,” “slow it down,” and “read these bills” before passing multi-trillion-dollar spending packages.