Burglarized offices may get relief

Lawmaker offices victimized by a rash of thefts on Capitol HIll will be able to get financial relief, according to the Committee on House Administration.

Committee leaders circulated a memo to House members on Thursday assuring them that security was being stepped up in response to the crimes, and that offices may not have to pay to replace stolen items from their personal office funds.

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The break-ins have occurred in the offices of at least three House members and several committees, according to local news reports. Missing items have reportedly included cash, computer equipment and signed memorabilia.

“In response to the recent reports of theft occurring around the Capitol Complex, the Committee on House Administration would like to assure Member offices that the United States Capitol Police (USCP) has taken immediate action to increase surveillance and police patrol activity throughout the House office buildings,” Administration Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) and ranking member Robert Brady (D-Pa.) wrote.

“If House equipment has been stolen from your congressional office, you may seek relief from personal liability for the item(s) by submitting a request to the Committee with a copy of the police report,” the memo continued. “Please note that members are not subject to personal reimbursement liability or fees if granted a waiver.”

House rules dictate that members must pay a fee and pay the replacement cost of stolen items from their office budgets, a rule lawmakers and staff have told the local media they view as unfair.

“It doesn’t feel fair to me,” Matthew Van Patton, Rep. Trey Gowdy’s (R-S.C) chief of staff, told National Journal this week. “I managed my budget, I bought responsibly. Security is not my job.”

While the waiver could allow offices to get a measure of relief, the committee currently has no intention of revisiting the rule and removing the fee or personal repayment requirement.

“It’s unlikely that the committee will revise the rule,” a committee source told The Hill.

Lungren and Brady also instructed all offices to report any suspicious activity to the USCP Criminal Investigations Section and to report any stolen items to the USCP House Division.