Kingston faces heat for taxpayer-funded lunches

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) is facing heat back at home for using taxpayer dollars to pay for staff lunches while criticizing school lunch programs for poor students.

Kingston, who's running for the Senate, stirred controversy in December for suggesting there "should be no such thing as a free lunch" for poor children who receive federally funded lunches at school, saying they could "sweep the floor in the cafeteria" in exchange for the food. Now, local media outlets are blasting him for his own free lunches.

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A television station in Kingston's congressional district, WSAV, has found Kingston's staff spent $4,200 of taxpayer money on free lunches in the last three years and $4,300 from outside groups, not counting expenses incurred on international trips.

The Washington-based conservative website The Daily Caller followed up with a report that he'd spent $125,000 on taxpayer-funded mailing since 2009 and pointed to a Kingston comment when he first ran for Congress in 1992 that, "Our government doesn’t live in the real world."

Kingston has been forced to defend his December criticism of the national program that provides children living in poverty with school lunches.

"Why don't you, you know, have the kids pay a dime, pay a nickel, instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch. Or maybe sweep the floor in the cafeteria," he said then.

He's one of seven Republicans vying for the GOP nomination to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).

National GOP strategists had previously viewed Kingston as the most electable candidate in the general election. But his remarks have some nervous he could be as gaffe-prone as some of the others in the race, including Reps. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), whose candidacies have had operatives feeling nervous for months.

Democrat Michelle Nunn has united her party around her candidacy, and Democrats are bullish about her chances this fall, if the GOP nominates a flawed candidate.

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