Job losses, home foreclosures and the worst economy in decades have forced many Americans to cut back or do without.
But not members of Congress, who voted themselves a 5 percent increase in their own budgets for staff salaries, office expenses and perks last year.
U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Miramar Democrat, paid two staffers about $160,000 apiece — and one of them was his longtime girlfriend.
....Florida's highest-spending House member was Hastings, who went through 96.5 percent of his allowance, while the most frugal, Adam Putnam, a Central Florida Republican, used 75.6 percent of his budget. The top 10 spenders were evenly split among Democrats and Republicans.
....Most Florida representatives employed one high-earning staffer. But Hastings had two near the top of the pay scale: Chief of Staff Arthur Kennedy and Deputy District Director Patricia Williams, the congressman's girlfriend of many years.
The House nepotism rule prevents lawmakers from hiring relatives, including spouses, in-laws, aunts, uncles and even cousins. But it does not exclude significant unmarried others.
Williams began working for the representative after he was first elected in 1992. She's a disbarred lawyer who represented Hastings in the 1980s, when he was tried and acquitted of accepting bribes as a federal judge and subsequently impeached and removed from the bench.
Williams' pay has gone up more than 30 percent since 2002, according to LegiStorm, a nonpartisan group that tracks congressional salaries.
Hastings' office did not respond to several e-mails or phone messages seeking comment.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Rep. Alcee Hastings has girlfriend on his payroll at taxpayers expense.
The joys on being a congress critter on the taxpayer's dime. She pretty much as that job for life because the way the district is cut up, Hastings will never be voted out.