Have a look at the legislators of Pa. To those that have spent essentially the most on meals, lodging, mileage and extra

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Story by Angela Couloumbis from Spotlight PA and Brad Bumsted, Sam Janesch and Mike Wereschagin from The Caucus

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania lawmakers spent $ 203 million from 2017 to 2020 to feed, house, transport, and provide rental offices and other perks to lawmakers and their employees. Roughly one in ten of those dollars – a total of $ 20 million over the four years – went into lawmakers’ pockets in the form of meal reimbursements, mileage grants, daily rates, and other expenses.

According to The Hidden Tab, a new year-long and ongoing research by Spotlight PA and The Caucus that shows how lawmakers are spending taxpayers money on themselves, and then masking that spending to make it harder for the public to keep track of things.

The expense records legally belong to the person who ultimately pays the bill: the taxpayers. In practice, citizens who want to see what lawmakers are buying with their money face a number of obstacles, delays, and even setbacks from lawyers charged with even more taxpayers’ money by the General Assembly.

More than a decade ago, a grand jury investigating the misuse of public funds by state lawmakers recommended that the General Assembly make dramatic changes to the way it conducts its business – including changes to its spending practices.

In a highly unusual report that was made public, the major jurors urged lawmakers to move to a part-time work schedule and limit deadlines. The grand jurors also recommended canceling taxpayer-funded partisan meetings, demanding receipts for reimbursement of room and board, and reducing the number of district offices to one per legislature.

It has also been recommended that the legislature’s budget list spending rather than dividing spending into broad categories that mean little to the general public.

None of these changes were implemented. While some lawmakers started posting issues online, the vast majority don’t today, and those posting outdated or incorrect information noted Spotlight PA and The Caucus.

Search our interactive chart below to see lawmakers who spent more than $ 100,000 in spending from 2017-2020. (Can’t see the diagram? Click here.)

WHILE YOU ARE HERE … If you learn anything from this story, keep paying and join Spotlight PA so someone else can do it in the future at spotlightpa.org/donate. Spotlight PA is funded by foundations and readers like you who are committed to accountability journalism that gets results.

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