By Brian Tumulty
Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Republican Rep. Tom Reed of Corning gave a total $14,750 in year-end bonuses to a dozen members of his congressional staff in December, according to a recent report on office expenditures.
Reed, who won re-election to a second House term in November, also awarded year-end bonuses to his congressional staff two years ago. At that time, he paid bonuses of up to $2,500 to each of seven employees, for a total of $7,817.
The December 2012 bonuses ranged from $750 to $2,000, with four employees getting $750 each and three receiving $2,000 each, according to the report recently filed by the chief administrative officer of the House.
District Director Joseph Sempolinski, Legislative Director Steven Prang and constituent outreach employee James Smith each received $2,000.
The $750 bonuses were awarded to two part-time employees, a caseworker and a legislative correspondent.
Tim Kolpien, the communications and media director, received a $1,000 bonus.
Reed issued a statement defending the practice.
"Our team is committed to providing excellent constituent service, having completed more than 4,000 constituent cases in our less than three years representing New Yorkers,'' he said. "We run our office like a private business and came in under budget again last year. Any bonuses are earned through high levels of performance.''
Each House member receives an annual office budget of about $1.3 million to cover salaries, office equipment, supplies, the rental of district offices and other expenses, including reimbursements for auto mileage, car rentals, meals and hotels while traveling on business.
The most recent office expenditure report covers the last three months of 2012, but not the first two days in January, which were the last two days of the 112th Congress.
Some members of Congress wait until those two days in January to award salary bonuses to their staff. Those bonuses don't become public until the second quarter of the year.
Awarding year-end staff bonuses is a common practice among House members. In 2009, about 77 percent of 130 House members surveyed by the chief administrative officer of the House gave year-end bonuses that averaged $3,248 each.
The independent budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense has been critical of the practice of awarding bonuses during a period of fiscal austerity.
Many federal agencies began implementing across-the-board budget cuts this month in response to the sequestration spending cuts that took effect March 1. Under sequestration, many federal employees face up to 22 days of unpaid furloughs by Sept. 30.
Reed told reporters in a conference call Monday he can't support a proposed increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour when the unemployment rate in many parts of his Southern Tier congressional district stands at 10 percent.