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Popcorn, TVs listed on lawmakers' spending

WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Members of Congress are spending money to save money -- such as thousands for plasma televisions to use for videoconferencing to reduce travel costs.

Chip in $623 for an office popcorn machine like Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., did; $823 for an ionic air freshener because aides for Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., work in close quarters; and $3,110 for an Autopen signature machine to be like Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., and soon you're talking about a nice office and some real taxpayer expense.

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The Hill, a Washington newspaper, examined spending by lawmakers over a 6-month period. House members are allotted an average of $1.2 million a year for office expenses, The Hill said. While the bulk of the funds go for staff salaries, some of the monies went for more flashy assets.

Including, The Hill found, plasma-screen televisions. At least four representatives paid more than $5,700 each for the devices. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas, got two plasma monitors and a television for some $18,900. His spokeswoman told The Hill the distance and size of his district makes it difficult -- and expensive -- to travel, so videoconferencing is a good compromise.

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