WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Taxpayers coughed up money for some last-minute bonuses for the top aides of some former local members of Congress in the days before leaving office. Three U.S. representatives from Florida cut some big checks for their staff and strategists.
In the hours after election night, their furniture was removed from their offices, their computers, most of their equipment disconnected.
They had just weeks until retirement.
At about the same time, Orlando-area congresswoman Sandy Adams and two Florida republican colleagues, Cliff Stearns and Allen West gave their top aides last-minute pay hikes.
Our review of federal records showed Stearns gave two staffers pay hikes of more than $12,000 in the final weeks.
A separate report from the D.C. research group "Legistorm" says the three florida leaders gave staffers an average salary boost of between 22% and 88% in the final three months of their terms.
"I think what gets people jazzed up about congressional bonuses is that it comes from the taxpayer. We do want to know as taxpayers why members who are leaving office tend to increase their bonus pay," said Garrett Snedeker, a researcher for LEGISTORM.ORG.
This is a particularly sensitive issue now because so many government employees are being forced to accept pay cuts as a result of the government budget crisis.
In all, U.S. house members doled out million of dollars in last-minute salary bonuses back in 2010.
One former congressional staffer tells me the bonuses are quite fair. Congress doesn't offer severance. And the job market, even here, is bleak.
Former congressman Allen West told us in a statement:
"We stayed within budget, actually under budget overall for the two years I served, just as I did in the army as a battalion commander, battalion executive officer, brigade operations officer, and battery commander."