The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is seen as the sun sets on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 7, 2013.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Witch hunts aren’t cheap

Politico reports this morning that the House Republicans’ new Benghazi committee hasn’t made many headlines lately, “but the silence doesn’t mean the investigation is fading away.” On the contrary, the GOP’s latest panel – the eighth congressional committee to investigate the 2012 attack in Libya – is reportedly “ramping up” behind the scenes, hiring aides, examining subpoenas, and reaching out to agencies for information.
 
For those who have no use for the discredited conspiracy theories, this may seem pointless. The committee’s chairman says he has questions about the deadly assault in Benghazi, but all of those questions have already been answered. Given that there’s real work Congress should at least try to do, investing energy in yet another committee to hold yet another round of hearings, going over the same information yet again, seems wasteful.
 
Sure, Republicans will get some fundraising letters out of this, and Fox News will be excited, but couldn’t GOP lawmakers find a better use for their time?
 
USA Today’s Paul Singer reported last night, however, that the Republican-led House isn’t just investing time and energy into this endeavor. It turns out, witch hunts are expensive.
House Republicans are planning to spend as much as $3.3 million for this year’s operations of the special committee they created in May to investigate the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, a bigger budget than the House Veterans Affairs and Ethics committees were given this year.
 
According to a committee document provided by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s office, House Republicans want a $3.3 million budget for this year’s operations of the 12-member select committee on the Benghazi attacks. As with most congressional committees, the document indicates the majority party gets the bigger share of the resources for the panel; the budget provides just under $2.2 million for Republicans and just over $1 million for Democrats on the committee.
In case it’s not obvious, let’s note for the record that all of this money will come from American taxpayers. This may be a partisan political exercise, but this $3.3 million won’t come from some super PAC or the Republican National Committee. It comes from us.
 
For an attack that’s already been investigated by seven other congressional committees and an independent State Department team, there has to be a better use for those funds.
 
Singer’s report was especially striking in drawing comparisons. For example, the House Republicans’ Benghazi committee will have a larger staff and a larger budget than the Veterans’ Affairs Committee – and since that committee ostensibly has real work to do, that seems like an odd allocation of resources.
 
Similarly, the Benghazi panel will also have more money and more aides than the House Ethics Committee. Given recent developments in the chamber involving members accused of ethical lapses, this too seems like a misuse of limited resources.
 
Singer added, “Since the Benghazi committee was created in May, its full-year equivalent budget would be more than $5 million. This is more than the House Intelligence Committee, which has a $4.4 million budget this year and spent $4.1 million last year.”
 
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, told USA Today, “It is unfathomable that House Republicans are spending more taxpayer money per day on this new committee to re-investigate Benghazi than the committee charged with oversight of the entire U.S. intelligence community.”
 
What’s more, note that this money is just for this year. Assuming House Republicans are in the majority again next year, lawmakers will invest millions more in the same committee.
 

Benghazi, Conspiracy Theories, Government Spending and House Republicans

Witch hunts aren't cheap