An ethics complaint filed by 30 Democrats in the U.S. House claims their colleagues who sleep in their government offices are abusing taxpayer funds to give themselves free housing in the nation’s capital.
One of the members who spends his nights in Washington in his office is U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a two-term Republican from Maine’s 2nd District.
At least one of his Democratic opponents — Islesboro bookstore owner Craig Olson — agrees that Poliquin should stop using his office as a bedroom.
“These members of Congress, including Mr. Poliquin, are enjoying an entitlement for which we are paying: free rent, a free cleaning service, free internet access,” Olson said. “Plus, I cannot imagine meeting with constituents where I also sleep.”
Poliquin, who has made no secret of his living arrangements in Washington, has touted the efficiency of sleeping in a pull-down bed that he bought and installed in his office in 2015. He takes showers at the House gym.
“(Poliquin) lives in Maine and works in his office during the week when he is in Washington, D.C., so he can focus all of his time working on behalf of the families of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District,” said Brendan Conley, Poliquin’s spokesman.
Poliquin “chooses to sleep in his office, without any additional costs or burdens to the taxpayer in any way, shape or form,” Conley said.
Poliquin bought a Murphy bed for his office. The company touts them as a way to provide “an extra bedroom when you need it, with the freedom of a functional space the rest of the year. It’s like adding a room to your home at a fraction of the cost.”
The ethics complaint questions “the legality and propriety of a significant number of members choosing to use their congressional offices as overnight lodging facilities.”
Signed mostly by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the letter submitted to the House Ethics Committee says members who sleep overnight in their offices “receive free lodging, free cable, free security, free cleaning services and utilize other utilities free of charge in direct violation of the ethics rules which prohibit official resources from being used for personal purposes.”
The letter also complains that staff members and House employees “are subjected to seeing and at times interacting with members in their sleeping attire, underwear and even partially nude,” which it calls “intimidating and offensive.”
Poliquin is one of dozens who stay in their offices overnight when they are in Washington. While many of those who do so are Republicans, there are also Democrats who do the same. Among the other House members who routinely sleep overnight in their offices is House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and former GOP vice presidential nominee.
The majority of members of Congress own or rent apartments in Washington or its suburbs.
The ethics complaint, first reported by Politico on Tuesday, said that “continuing to maintain a personal residence in congressional offices, using congressional resources for personal use (such as water, phone, utilities, etc.) and increasing or interfering with the work of housekeeping and maintenance staff brings discredit to the House and blatantly violates House ethics rules.”
It also alleges that doing so “creates a hostile work environment for employees that work within the buildings.”
Those filing the complaint, who have not gotten a response from the ethics panel, said that “at a bare minimum” members who sleep in their offices “should be taxed at the fair market value of a Capitol Hill apartment,” the same way their parking spaces are taxed by the municipal government.
Olson said he has “always found the practice of Republican members sleeping in their offices since the Gingrich revolution in 1994 to be quite ridiculous.”
“It is a way to isolate oneself from colleagues and has certainly contributed to the hyper-partisan nature of our current Congress,” he said.
Olson said that if members “want to continue to sleep in their offices at our expense, they should reimburse the federal government for the cost of a one-bedroom D.C. apartment on Capitol Hill at market rate, with cable, cleaning service and gym membership added to that monthly cost for every month they serve in office.”
When U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin moved to a new office in December 2016 in the Longworth House Office Building, he brought his bed with him. His office released this picture of workers taking apart his Murphy bed to take it to the new location.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin (file photo)