Yakym, Banks rank below average in spending reimbursements

By Mia Hilkowitz
Indiana Capital Chronicle

INDIANAPOLIS — Kosciusko County’s two members of Congress ranked below average in the amount of money reimbursements they received for expenses.

Indiana’s nine U.S. House members received a combined $199,332 in reimbursements for lodging, meals and incidentals in 2023 as part of a new program that allows federal lawmakers to recoup expenses without providing receipts.

The U.S. House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress approved the program in 2022. It is considered an alternative to representatives giving themselves a raise and aims to encourage more people to run for office, according to the committee’s December 2022 report. House members receive a base salary of $174,000.

The committee also said in its report that there should be “reasonable reimbursement limits,” ethics requirements and that the process should be transparent to the public, but did not specify how to achieve these goals.

The reimbursements aim to help representatives cover the costs of living and maintaining households in both their home district and in D.C. However, the program does not require members to keep and submit receipts of the specific expenses, so it is unclear exactly when the expenses occurred and what they covered.

Reimbursements to Indiana’s representatives

According to a Washington Post database of the 2023 reimbursements, the 328 House of Representatives members who reported reimbursements received $5.8 million under the program. Representatives received an average reimbursement of around $18,000.

Indiana Rep. Jim Baird, R-4th, received the third highest reimbursement — $41,549 — of any member of the House. Most of this reimbursement, $29,875, was allocated for lodging, while the remaining $11,674 covered meals and incidentals.

Baird’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment on these reimbursements.

Baird spent $9,790 more than the next highest-reimbursed Indiana representative, Republican Larry Bucshon, R-8th, who received a total of $31,759. Bucshon received almost $14,000 more than the typical reimbursement. The next highest Indiana spenders — Republicans Victoria Spartz (R-5th) and Greg Pence (R-6th), and Democrat André Carson (D-7th) —  all received at least $9,000 more than the average reimbursement.

Caroline Ellert, a spokesperson for Carson, said in a statement to the Indiana Capital Chronicle the reimbursement program was a recommendation to “improve and strengthen the House.”

“Congressman Carson continues to support a legislative branch that is effective, efficient, and transparent,” Ellert said.

According to the Post’s database, 107 representatives reported $0 in reimbursements under the program. Rep. Rudy Yakym, R-2nd, received the lowest reimbursement of the Indiana representatives, around $4,000.

Representatives Jim Banks, R-3rd, Erin Houchin, R-9th, and Frank Mrvan, D-1st, also received less than the $18,000 typical reimbursement.

Even though they are not required to submit receipts, representatives can still face criminal prosecution for lying about expenses under the program.

* * *

The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to giving Hoosiers a comprehensive look inside state government, policy and elections. The site combines daily coverage with in-depth scrutiny, political awareness and insightful commentary.

You can read the original version of the story here.