RALEIGH – Rep. Bob Steinburg (R-Edenton) has been making some waves as he engages in a primary contest against Clark Twiddy for an N.C. Senate Seat, but not necessarily good ones. After a bizarree exchange of mudslinging with retiring Sen. Bill Cook (R-Beaufort) over legislative assistants, Steinburg is now under scrutiny for allegedly abusing the taxpayer funded per diem payouts for “legislative work.”
The Daily Haymaker reported that Steinburg was taking week long per diem claims, even when the legislature had no business, and evidently breaking the law regarding when a lawmaker can legally take per diem payments. The Edenton Republican had formerly boasted in the comment section of the site that he never does or would take more than the $13k base salary and, “Anyone who does has much to fear from me.”
“…thanks to a public records request — and the yeoman’s work by Haymaker super-fan Tim Martin — we have our hands on a whole lot of official internal General Assembly files detailing the disbursement of per diem and mileage payments to members.
According to official records, Steinburg — in his six years in Raleigh — has collected $102,036.58 in per diem and mileage. That’s a yearly average of $17,006 above and beyond his $13,951 salary and $559 per month “expense” allowance.
Another interesting find in Steinburg’s records was how often he was disbursed per diem in chunks of $728 (7 days x $104). That appeared to be a rare occurrence among legislators. So, I asked a former legislator about it. This source told me:
“Seven days? If you’re claiming seven days of per diem at a time, I’m sorry — pardon my French — but you’re full of crap. Nobody over there is working seven days a week. Nobody.””
After being called out, Steinburg appeared on a conservative radio show to profess his innocence. Well, not really. He merely said that “EVERYONE” does it, so it’s no big deal.
“I spoke with two current legislators who recalled a warning from Speaker Tim Moore during a caucus meeting around the time of the January session. Both said Moore told assembled Republicans to only take per diem for the days in Raleigh — and nothing more. Said one of my legislator sources:
“He told us he knew we were under the microscope. Steinburg was in the room. After Moore said that, Steinburg turned to another member and said ‘Forget that. I’m taking all the money. We don’t get paid enough!’ “
On his radio show on Wednesday, Steinburg claimed it was a regular — no big deal — occurrence to take seven days of per diem at a time.”
So, either A) Every single legislator takes bulk per diem and milks taxpayers for as much as they can, or, B) Bob Steinburg says ‘to hell with the rules and the taxpayers, I’m taking as much as I can’despite being warned.
Both potentials are bad for taxpayers, but the latter points to someone with a disregard for the citizens he ostensibly represents and the tax money they worked so hard for. What is the threshold for active investigation and enforcement of these rules and reclaiming abuses on behalf of taxpayers?
Working the system for an extra $17,000 above and beyond the base salary, with clear and documented cases of taking per diem pay when the legislature was not even in session must be addressed. It will certainly be weighed at the ballot box come May 8.