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Lawmakers dole out big bonuses to staff with taxpayer money

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Some of Wisconsin's federal lawmakers gave their staffs big bonuses, with money from taxpayers who've had their own pay frozen or cut.

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Dan Bice said four House members each raised their staff payrolls by at least 20 percent in the final three months of last year.

They were Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, Jim Sensenbrenner of R-Menomonee Falls, and Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac.

Petri gave one of his aides a bonus of almost $15,000, and another got $13,000.

The money from comes from the members' annual office accounts and if they don't use it, they lose it.

A Washington tracking group said congressional staff bonuses were the biggest in years.

Bice said some of the same lawmakers who railed loudly against tax-funded bonuses for Wall Street executives refused to say much about their own staff bonuses.

Petri spokesman Niel Wright said Washington is expensive, and his boss wants his staff to be able to afford to live there.

Sensenbrenner's chief of staff his bonuses are based on merit and "the product they produce."

Rep. David Obey, D-Wausau, and Sen. Democrat Russ Feingold said they never give out year-end staff bonuses.

Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, normally does but he didn't this year because of the recession.

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