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Just how much moula goes flows from the constituent service funds directly to the needy? Not much, according to some number crunching done by the advocacy group D.C. for Democracy. The group combed through 2010 records and added up the total money spent by elected officials’ constituent service funds on “immediate constituent needs” like rental and utility assistance and help with funeral costs. The results:

Councilmember Total Constituent Svcs Expenditures Amount Actually Spent on Constituent Needs % Actually Spent on Constituent Needs
Yvette Alexander $49,939 $1,007 2%
Marion Barry $14,463 $3,607 25%
Muriel Bowser $35,713 $2,336 7%
Kwame Brown $7.354 $816 8%
Michael Brown $49,951 $4,793 10%
David Catania $14,932 $1,855 12%
Mary Cheh $34,686 $476 1%
Jack Evans $85,381 $3,286 4%
Jim Graham $48,713 $11,988 25%
Vince Gray $50,508 $14,235 28%
Phil Mendelson $3,751 $455 12%
Harry Thomas, Jr $6,259 $768 12%
Tommy Wells $8,299 $2,649 32%

Next, the group broke down how much lawmakers spent giving to community groups (including non-profits and political groups) and how much was spent on “other.” That last category includes “office supplies, computer expenses, printing, catering & refreshments and local travel; also for breakfast meetings of councilmembers, for Deer Park water and to pay for season tickets to DC professional sports teams.”

As you can see below, some councilmembers are spending nearly all their money on “other.”

Councilmember Total Constituent Svcs Expenditures % Spent on Constituent Needs % Spent on Community Events/Orgs % Spent on Other Kinds of Expenditures
Yvette Alexander $49,939 2% 11% 87%
Marion Barry $14,463 25% 35% 40%
Muriel Bowser $35,713 7% 14% 79%
Kwame Brown $7,354 11% 8% 81%
Michael Brown $49,951 10% 22% 68%
David Catania $14,932 12% 77% 11%
Mary Cheh $34,686 1% 18% 81%
Jack Evans $85,381 4% 21% 75%
Jim Graham $48,713 25% 20% 55%
Vince Gray $50,508 28% 42% 30%
Phil Mendelson $3,751 12% 48% 40%
Harry Thomas, Jr $6,259 12% 29% 59%
Tommy Wells $8,299 32% 45% 23%

The takeaway, according to D.C. for Democracy, is that these funds need to be eliminated rather than tweeked, as Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser has proposed in her ethics legislation. “The quite limited amounts spent on hardship cases handled by these funds—less than $50,000 for all councilmembers’ CSF’s—suggests that there must be a better way to handle them, perhaps in the executive branch through a central office with the ability to access city-wide public and private resources to service them.”

Tables courtesy of D.C. for Democracy