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Lawmakers donated nearly $495,000 to charity after fed shutdown

At least 116 legislators donated part of their salaries to various charitable organizations in the wake of the government closure last October.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) talks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 13, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) talks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 13, 2014 in Washington, DC.

At least 116 lawmakers from across the political spectrum donated more than $494,500 to charity or returned money to federal accounts as a result of the government shutdown last October, according to an analysis completed by the Washington Post.

Last year during the 16-day government shutdown, 244 lawmakers vowed to give back part of their salaries to assist in paying the deficits from the closure that cost the country an estimated $24 billion. Their actions were reportedly the largest single instance of lawmakers donating so much money in response to one event. 

Additionally, it cost $2 billion in back pay for furloughed workers, who lost a total of 6.6 million work days.

Some congressional members either rejected their paychecks earned during the shutdown or donated the money to charity -- while others refused to give up their pay.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, provided $10,000 -- the largest known single donation -- to a group that supports inner-city Catholic schoolchildren in the Washington Archdiocese, the Post reported. Republican Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota split his $10,000 donation between the Wounded Warrior Project and the North Dakota National Guard Foundation. The Wounded Warrior Project earned the most money -- more than $30,700 from 10 legislators, according to the Post.

Additionally, at least 15 lawmakers returned more than $87,400 to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, according to the Post.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz received much of the blame for the shutdown because of his 21-hour faux-filibuster of the Affordable Care Act. But he donated the proceeds from his 16 days of work -- $7,627.40 -- to a Houston charter school system.

The money helped several organizations, ranging from the Boy Scouts of America, food banks and groups aiding Colorado flood victims, to veterans organizations, crisis pregnancy centers and high school sports teams, according to the Post.

Washington's lawmakers currently earn $174,000 each year, and haven't voted for an increase since 2009. (Members of the House and Senate earn more.)

Approval ratings for leaders in Washington plummeted in the weeks following the shutdown. GOP leaders shouldered most of the blame, but a whopping 86% of the public disapproved of the entire congressional body, according to a CNN/ORC International poll published in October. And less than half -- 44% -- of Americans approved of President Obama's leadership in the days following the closure.

If every member of Congress was replaced, the government body would be "better off," according to 47% of Americans surveyed in a USA Today/Princeton Survey Research poll released last year.

Some people told the Post they believe the legislators were motivated to donate to save their public image instead of sincere empathy for the organizations.

The original list of lawmakers included 237 legislators, but an additional seven individuals said they also donated money.