The US House of Representatives recently uploaded the latest quarterly Statement of Disbursements to its website, marking the first time these public records have been made available online. These reports detail how Members spent their Member's Representational Allowance over the past quarter. Elected House members are allotted $1.4 million to $1.7 million each fiscal year, which is used for government-related expenditures including staff salaries, travel, district office leases, office equipment, telecommunications, office supplies and postage. Click here to see how much a specific House member received for 2009.
The online version of the Statement of Disbursements is a three-part PDF totaling approximately 3,000 pages. In the past, these 3,000 pages were only printed in paper format over several volumes, which were made available to the public in basement rooms in Washington D.C. and federal libraries with copies costing 10 cents each. According to Roll Call, open government advocates have expressed that putting the Statement of Disbursements PDFs online has made access easier, but the format is not as useful as a searchable database for analytic purposes or directed research. However, the Sunlight Foundation has used the PDFs to create a searchable online House expenditures database to meet this need.
Earlier this year, the Senate passed a legislative provision requiring that their Statement of Disbursement reports be published in a “searchable, itemized” format, however these records will not be made available online until 2011. Until then, these detailed reports are available in printed form and some information from the reports has been extracted into online databases by non-governmental groups. LegiStorm.com provides online databases for congressional staff salaries obtained through Statement of Disbursement reports, as well as other databases for congressional travel expenses, financial disclosures, foreign gifts and earmarks.