Now it’s easier to account for how the Senate spends your money

Source: Jacob Fenton, Sunlight Foundation blog, August 5, 2014

Did you know the U.S. Senate had seven barbers on staff at the start of 2014? That 200 people working for the Senate had “press secretary” in their title? Or that Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office spent $14,727.77 of taxpayer money on a staff retreat at Loew’s Annapolis Hotel between March 29 and March 31, 2012?

All of these details come from a series of reports on expenditures issued by the secretary of the Senate every six months. In their original format — 1,800-page PDF documents — they are nearly useless for analysis. But we believe we’ve managed to extract three years of line itemizations, more than 300,000 overall, into a series of spreadsheets, representing three years of Senate expenditures, from April 2011 through March 2014.

This is, to our knowledge, the first public release of Senate disbursement data in an easy-to-use format. It should help journalists, political scientists and other motivated citizens get their arms around how the Senate is spending the taxpayers’ money.

The Sunlight Foundation has been processing the more straightforward House disbursement data since 2009. Having this data in an easy-to-sort format has led to a number of interesting revelations, both from Sunlight’s reporting and that of others. …