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Inside the Spending Habits Of Utah’s House Reps

Lee Hale

Utah’s House members spend less than the average congressperson on staffing and day-to-day operations, according todata obtained by ProPublica.

With $1.19 million in reported expenses, Utah’s most senior House Rep., Rob Bishop, spent the most in 2017.

The minimum budget allowance for members of congress was $1.25 million in 2017, but no one from Utah’s House delegation spent that much.  

While the elected officials have broad flexibility with their allowances, the largest expense by far is for staff and payroll. In 2017, Utah’s three full-time representatives — Rob Bishop, Chris Stewart and Mia Love — spent between $800,000 and $1 million on staff compensation.

While Love spent the least on payroll last year, she far outspent her Utah colleagues on printing and sending mail to constituents in Utah, an expenditure called franked mail.

Some critics argues franked mail can be used as campaign advertising on the taxpayer’s dime.

“It’s only one of several incumbency advantages, but when candidates are a bit vulnerable, as Congresswoman Love is, it’s not surprising that she seems to do more of that,” said David Magleby, a political science professor at Brigham Young University.

Travel expenses can indicate how often an elected official visits their home district to meet with constituents and other local officials. Congressional representatives use the money to pay for airfare, gasoline, parking, and in some cases, meals and lodging for themselves and staff members.

While Bishop had the highest total expenditures, he spent the least of Utah’s three full-time representatives on travel expenses in 2017. Bishop spent $61,035, compared to Stewart’s $88,659 and Love’s $78,741.

During his final six months in office, Chaffetz spent $49,649 on travel. Curtis spent $11,120 after he was sworn into the House.

Total Office Budgets
Bishop’s office reported $1.19 million in expenditures last year.

That doesn’t include money budgeted to the House Natural Resources Committee, which Bishop chairs.

The committee “substantially increases the amount of funds Congressman Bishop oversees,” said Magleby. Bishop’s committee budgeted more than $6 million in 2017.

Reps. Chris Stewart and Mia Love each spent $1.16 million to run their congressional offices last year.

Rep. John Curtis, who was sworn in less than two months before the year ended, spent the least in 2017. Curtis, who won a special election to replace retired Rep. Jason Chaffetz, spent $140,604 between his Nov. 13 swearing-in and the end of 2017 to get his congressional office up and running.

Chaffetz, whom Curtis replaced, spent $839,469 before his June 30 retirement from the House.

U.S. Senators get larger budgets, and Utah’s Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch each spent about $6 million on staffing, travel and other office expenditures in 2017.

Spending Totals of Utah's House Members, 2018 Q1

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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