You've just gotten a new job that pays $174,000 (plus amazing benefits, but that's another story). This job requires you to split time between your home in Whereverville and Washington, DC.
The new gig comes with a huge office that is effectively a three-room suite, (and if you are lucky it might also have a bathroom and small kitchen). So instead of paying upwards of $2000/month for a one-room apartment, you decide to turn one of the three rooms in the office into living space. Fold-out couch or inflatable mattress... BOOM! You're home. The office also has a swell gym that is open 24/7 so showering is not a problem.
Welcome to the reality for at least 33 Congressional Representatives who now call their DC offices home. (Check the list here to see if your Rep is bunking-in.)
Sleeping in the office is not a new concept, especially in Washington, and strangely enough, making your office into your residence is also not new to DC. Congressman have been doing this for years, but never this many. Last year the Chicago Tribune reported:
It's going on 10 p.m. when House Democrat Mike Quigley, in track pants and a T-shirt, tosses a flimsy mattress on the floor of his congressional office and prepares to call it a night.
The 51-year-old Democrat from Chicago regularly sleeps there. Several other members of the House of Representatives, perhaps as many as one in 10, also bunk out in their offices, according to estimates.
This January the 10 office sleepers more than tripled to at least 33, as a large contingent of the newly elected Congressmen decided to save some money and sleep in the office. But the trend may be brought to an abrupt end as an investigation has been launched by a group concerned with the ethics of our elected officials. CREW, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is asking for a probe into the practice. The group is concerned that the office squatters are receiving an unreported tax benefit and violating House rules. CREW's Executive Director Melanie Sloan declared:
"House office buildings are not dorms or frat houses. If members didn't want to find housing in Washington, they shouldn't have run for Congress in the first place."
Congressman Chris Gibson from NY is one of the accused "frat boys."
The professional ethics of a House member who sleeps in his/her office is also being question by CREW:
“official resources of the House must, as a general rule, be used for the performance of official business of the House"
And then there is the alleged tax benefit these frugal legislators are receiving, CREW charges;
"As living in a House office clearly is not a condition of serving in Congress, members must pay taxes for imputed income based on the fair market value of their lodging,”
Ms. Sloane closes her letter to the Ethics Committee as follows;
Congress has been officially asked to investigate it's members who, in most cases, are trying to act with great fiscal responsibility. This should be fun to watch. And as a matter of fact, it would be great fun to watch. A reality TV show that reveals what happens in the House after hours. Reality TV uber-Producer Mark Burnett (the man who brought us hits like "Survivor" & "Sarah Palin's Alaska") where are you?