Entries in Taxpayers (6)


Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Resignation Could Cost Taxpayers $5.1 Million

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Jesse Jackson Jr.’s resignation from the House could cost Illinois taxpayers more than $5.1 million, according to the state elections board.

Jackson, Jr. offered his resignation Wednesday to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Jackson has been absent from the Capitol for months while undergoing treatment for bipolar disorder at the Mayo Clinic. In addition, his use of campaign funds is being investigated by federal authorities.

Looking at two special House elections held in Illinois in recent years — those to replace GOP House speaker Denny Hastert and Democratic congressman Rahm Emanuel — the Illinois State Board of Elections calculated those elections cost $2,700 to $4,000 per precinct. With 590 precincts in Jackson’s 2nd Congressional District, an election would probably cost around $2,575,000, the state board told ABC News.

Illinois will hold two special elections to replace Jackson, a primary and a general, and the state board projects that replacing Jackson could cost $5.15 million total.

That’s just a projection, and it assumes that the 2nd Congressional District will hold the special elections on their own days. State law will likely allow for the primary, but not the general, to be held alongside already-scheduled votes for state and local offices.

Jackson hasn’t officially won re-election yet, as the state won’t certify election results until Dec. 2. Officials are unsure of whether that will affect how Gov. Pat Quinn handles Jackson’s resignation, an official with the state elections board said. Jackson handily defeated Republican lawyer Brian Woodworth with 63 percent of the vote, according to the still-unofficial results.

Quinn, a Democrat, must set a special-election date within five days, under Illinois law. The election must be held in the 115 days after that.

Jackson may have cost taxpayers extra by resigning so suddenly.

To save money, the 2nd District could hold its special election on Illinois’ consolidated election schedule at the same time as lesser races throughout the state.

But that doesn’t seem possible under Illinois’s statutory special-election timeline. Illinois primaries will happen Feb. 26, but the April 9 general-election date falls outside the 115-day special-election range. Counting Thursday as day 1, March 21 is the earliest the 2nd District special election could be held.

Had Jackson waited until Dec. 15 to resign, Quinn could have scheduled the general special election for April 9, along with Illinois’ other general elections.

The cost of the special elections will be borne by the counties in Jackson’s district, as well as by the state.

Holding a statewide special election to replace governor Rod Blagojevich cost the state between $90 million and $100 million, according to estimates, the state elections board said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Washington’s Porkiest Projects: Sen. Tom Coburn Releases Waste Book 2012

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- It’s becoming a tradition for Sen. Tom Coburn: The annual “Waste Book.”  Every year since 2010, the Oklahoma Republican has issued his blistering report highlighting the 100 most egregious abuses of taxpayer dollars.  This year, Coburn and his research team highlighted examples totaling $17.9 billion and ABC News got an exclusive first look.

For example, chances are when you think “nonprofit,” you don’t think of the National Football League, the National Hockey League, or the Professional Golfers’ Association.  However, each of these sport’s associations avoids paying tens of millions of dollars each year in taxes because they classify themselves as such.

The NFL loophole is Exhibit A in Coburn’s new report on government waste, which points out that the NFL alone pulled in more than $9 billion last year and paid Commissioner Roger Goodell more than $11 million.

“We have some of the biggest corporations in America paying no taxes whatsoever,” Coburn told ABC News Monday. “You know something is wrong with the [tax] code.”

Next up, the $325,000 squirrel robot.  Researchers at San Diego State University and University of California, Davis, spent a portion of their National Science Foundation Grant making sure a robotic squirrel looks so real it can fool a rattlesnake.

And then there’s No. 6, which the report labels “Out-of-this-world Martian food tasting.”   NASA is spending nearly $1 million a year researching food for astronauts to eat on Mars, despite the fact it has no plans for a manned mission to the red planet.

The Lake Murray State Park airport in Carter, Okla., receives $150,000 a year from the FAA, despite providing a runway for just one flight a month. Oklahoma’s Aeronautics Commission which spends less than one percent of that funding on the Lake Murray airport itself, admits it keeps the scarcely used airport open to funnel the money to other airports and projects.

“Is there anybody in the world who would say ‘No thanks government! We don’t want this money?’” OAC Commissioner Wes Stucky told ABC News.

Coburn, for his part, points to a government system that he says encourages waste.

“We put that [example] in there to show people how stupid the federal government is,” Coburn said. “We have a system that says you can collect money because you have an airport open even though nobody uses it so you can collect money to spend on other airports.  Why wouldn’t we have a smarter system?”

Coburn says his report is proof that Congress, despite all the talk about government spending and the fiscal cliff, is still wasting as much money as ever.

“Every family in America has been struggling for the last three or four years and they’ve made hard choices. Congress refuses to make the hard choices,” Coburn said.

And so with no major accomplishments this year and a trillion dollar deficit, the Waste Book in fact lists Congress itself as a waste of money.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gingrich Urged to End Secret Service Detail at Taxpayer Expense

AFP/Getty Images(ALEXANDRIA, Va.) -- A tax activist group has urged Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich to suspend his Secret Service protection to save taxpayer dollars.

“For a guy who for all intents and purpose, and isn’t doing a lot of campaigning, needs to suspend his Secret Service detail,” said David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance in Alexandria, Va. “He needs to do what’s right for the taxpayer and say, ‘I’m done with Secret Service protection.'”

Gingrich, who has had Secret Service for about a month, has vowed to stay in the race until presumptive nominee Mitt Romney reaches the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination. Gingrich has the “Camp David” package of Secret Service, which includes but is not limited to six cars, six federal agents, four state troopers at a campaign stop, four local agents when the candidate arrives and a press agent if there is a press bus, a person with knowledge of the Gingrich campaign said.

Although the cost to keep the Secret Service detail on the Gingrich campaign couldn’t be determined, it includes agents’ meals, hotel stays, transportation and salary. The person with knowledge of the Secret Service and the campaign said Gingrich’s protection might be helping him stay in race because the cost is borne by taxpayers.

The campaign has no intention of changing course, however. “Where does he not qualify for Secret Service? Has Mitt Romney secured the nomination?” Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond asked.

Hammond said the Secret Service spends the same amount of money to cover Romney. “As a government, we provide protection to our candidates, visiting dignitaries, presidential families,” Hammond said. “There are a lot of people who would like to see him not in the race. There’s an entire class of pundits who make a living offering up their opinion, but pundits don’t pick the president, people do.”

The costs associated with several components of a campaign are covered when it is under the veil of Secret Service protection.

With Secret Service, the campaign doesn’t have to pay for vehicle transportation, which includes gas, drivers and staff. Before receiving Secret Service, the campaign had to rent cars, pay for gas and also keep staff members on the road to drive the vehicles.

With Secret Service, the campaign also does not have to pay for private security for Gingrich. Private security alone can total $50,000 a month. Even after receiving Secret Service, the campaign did keep private security for Gingrich’s wife, Callista, who is not covered by the Secret Service detail for the candidate.

Another big cost saver for campaigns with Secret Service is that the campaign doesn’t have to pay advance staff to travel ahead of the group and secure the site to ensure it is acceptable for Gingrich’s arrival. There are usually two Secret Service agents who are at the site before the candidate’s arrival. Even after receiving Secret Service, the campaign did pay a private advance staff to prepare the sites. The advance staff was cut when Gingrich released one-third of his staff to save money.

Gingrich has seen his share of “Occupy Wall Street” protestors while campaigning, one of whom leaped toward him and was tackled by Gingrich’s private security team in Iowa. And a student stood up and shouted at Gingrich as he spoke in North Carolina last week. There have been other incidents, several sources said, although Hammond said the campaign does not comment on security matters.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Who Pays for Rick Perry’s Security? Texans

ABC News(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Rick Perry’s security costs have risen since he entered the presidential campaign in August, costing Texas taxpayers as much as $400,000 a month, according to a report by the Texas Tribune.

An examination of Texas public safety department records found that the agency spent more than $1.4 million on out-of-state trips between September to mid-December, including more than $397,000 between Sept. 5 and Sept. 28 this year.

According to the Texas Tribune, this amount included “$161,786 for airfare, $8,140 for baggage fees, $50,648.84 for food, $6,442.24 for fuel, $112,111.81 for lodging, $54,356.65 for rentals, $2,990.26 for parking and $1,238.57 in an unspecified “other” category.”

In 2011, the Texas public safety department spent $1.1 million for the entire fiscal year on out-of-state security costs.

The Texas Tribune noted that George W. Bush amassed a hefty tab for Texas taxpayers when he ran for president in 2000 while he sat as the governor of Texas. The state spent at least $400,000 per month in the first quarter of the year when he ran for president in 2000, and Texas taxpayers paid $3.9 million for his security costs between January 1999 and March 2000 when Secret Service took over security detail.

Perry is the only candidate, other than President Obama, whose security is funded by taxpayers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Members-Only House Gym Subsidized by Taxpayers

Jupiterimages/Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., admitted to sending lewd photos of himself to multiple women. However, for some members of Congress, the issue isn't only the photos, but where they were taken: the members-only House gym.

ABC News was not allowed to enter either the House or Senate workout facilities, but those who have say they're both equipped with flat-screen TVs, workout machines and a swimming pool.

House reps and senators justify the perk by saying important work gets done there. In March 2010, Rep. Eric Massa questioned the locker room etiquette of then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

"I'm sitting there showering, naked as a jaybird and here comes Rahm Emanuel, not even with a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my chest, yelling at me because I wasn't going to vote for the president's budget," said Massa.

Vice President Joe Biden works out at the gym, where he talks shop with senators.

The gyms are kept out of plain sight. There are no signs outside the doors of the gyms; the only way to get inside is for members to get buzzed in. Celebrity fitness guru Tony Horton of P90X fame says he trained a bunch of congressmen at the House gym, including Reps. Weiner, Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

"You know Anthony Weiner. He's hardcore," Horton said to The Wall Street Journal before the scandal broke.

And what does it cost for members of Congress to belong to such a place?

For them, not much. Members of the House pay $20 a month, senators pay $40 a month, fees subsidized by taxpayers. Government officials refuse to reveal the true cost of running the House's "wellness center."

ABC News could not get an answer on how much the center is costing Americans, and the costs appear hidden in the Congress's budget.

"We do not provide information on the House gym for security purposes," said Eva Malecki, a communications officer for the architect of the Capitol.

"You get the feeling like they just don't get what's going on out there in the real world when they have all these perks at their fingertips," Leslie Paige, a spokeswoman for the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste, told ABC News. "The gyms and the hair care and all the parking facilities that they have...they're really living a different life than the average American."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


GOP Address: Slow Recovery, Lack of Jobs Bankrupting America

Photo Courtesy - Office of Sen. Ron Johnson(WASHINGTON) -- In the GOP’s weekly radio address, Wisconsin freshman Sen. Ron Johnson said slow economic activity and high unemployment is leading America into bankruptcy.

Johnson says huge deficits and inadequate job creation are not to blame for America being bankrupted, but the ever-expanding size, scope, and cost of government is.

“I hope the president and his allies in Congress accept a simple truth: big government is blocking job creation, not helping it,” Sen. Johnson said. “The sooner Washington ends its dependence on more spending, the sooner our economy will see real growth.”

Johnson described government regulations as having a detrimental effect on the economy, and said that these regulations are costing taxpayers precious time.

“The small business administration estimates that government regulations cost our economy $1.7 trillion annually,” Johnson said. “According to the IRS’ own figures, it costs taxpayers 6.1 billion hours to comply with tax code, just last year.”

The newly-elected senator said he brings the perspective of someone who has been creating jobs, and said he knows first-hand the consequences of government intrusion into peoples' lives.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio