Cruz, Others Fulfill Promise to Donate Shutdown Pay

Friday, 28 Feb 2014 01:39 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, one of the main players in last fall's 16-day government shutdown, was among the lawmakers who gave his salary for the time period to charity.

During the shutdown, 244 lawmakers pledged to give back their salaries or donate them to charity, reports The Washington Post. but a new analysis shows that only about half of them returned part or all of their pay.

Cruz followed through on his promise, donating $7,627.40, representing his full pay for the 16 days, to YES Prep, a Houston charter school system he and his wife, Heidi, have long supported.

In all, 116 out of the 244 lawmakers making the pledge reported donating more than $494,500 to charities or government accounts to help pay down the federal deficit. During a shutdown, lawmakers must be paid because their salaries come from mandatory government spending.

The donations have gone to a variety of sources, including crisis pregnancy centers, high school football teams, and the Boy Scouts of America, reports The Post, which on Thursday posted a growing list of lawmakers who donated their salaries.

It has been difficult to track down the donations because lawmakers are not required to disclose how much they donate to charity. However, the U.S. Treasury is expected to list on Friday the lawmakers who returned their pay back to the government.

The Wounded Warrior Project, which assists military service members and veterans, received the most donations, netting more than $30,700 from 10 members of Congress.  WWP Communications Director Michelle Roberts said the group appreciates the money, but not the reason behind it.

"It is the fundamental responsibility of the government to disburse benefits payments to the brave men and women who served and sacrificed for this nation, a commitment that was nearly jeopardized during the government shutdown," Roberts said.

The largest single donation was made by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, who gave $10,000 to the Consortium of Catholic Academies, which supports inner-city Catholic schoolchildren in the Washington Archdiocese.

She is one of the richest members of Congress and hosts an annual fundraising dinner for the Catholic organization.

North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, a Republican, split his $10,000 donation between the Wounded Warrior Project and the North Dakota National Guard Foundation.

Other donations included those made by Pennsylvania Rep. Keith Rothfus, a Republican, who gave to a Pittsburgh television station that buys Thanksgiving turkeys for the poor, and Tennessee GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander, who gave more than $9,300 to the University of Tennessee. Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who is a breast cancer survivor, donated around $2,000 to "Beer for Boobs," a breast cancer awareness group.

Lawmakers sent back more than $87,400 to the federal Treasury.

Alan Abramson, a professor at George Mason University, told the Post that the lawmakers' action resembled what happens when celebrities try to repair their public image.

"I think members of Congress are looking for popular charities which are addressing an important need and that are safe," he said. "They're not going out on a limb by supporting Wounded Warriors as compared to if they're supporting PETA or some other edgy charity."

Lawmakers earn $174,000 annually, with party leaders earning slightly more, but their other income brings most of their earnings up to the $1 million per year level.

Some lawmakers, such as California GOP Rep. Darrell Issa; Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat; and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican, are so wealthy, they donate their entire salaries to either charity or family foundations, according to the Post.

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