Tags: ackerman | west | akin | bonuses

Parting Gifts? Outgoing Reps. Give Staffs Huge Bonuses

Tuesday, 02 Apr 2013 10:07 AM

By Lisa Barron

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Retiring Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman doubled the size of his staffers’ pay during his last days in office, a new report on congressional salaries shows.

Taxpayers forked out bigger bonuses for the veteran New York congressman’s aides than for any other member of the House, reports LegiStorm, which tracks pay in Congress.

“Staffers in his office doubled their pay, on average, in the fourth quarter compared to the previous quarters,” the website reports.

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LegiStorm says that retiring and defeated congressmen tend to pay the biggest bonuses, recognizing that their staff soon will have to look for new jobs. Ackerman decided against seeking an 11th term in November.

Republicans take up the next nine spots on the LegiStorm list, headed by former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin who gave up his seat in an unsuccessful bid to join the Senate. His staff’s salaries went up by 98.3 percent in the final quarter.

While the records don’t label bonuses as such, the website calculates them by comparing the increase in reported pay in the fourth quarter to the first three quarters. Senate salaries are reported differently, making such a comparison impossible.

House members typically give their staff bonuses out of the expenses they are allowed for the year. Any unused money goes back to the U.S. Treasury.

Several other outgoing congressmen also gave their staff huge raises in the closing days of the 112th Congress. Of the 20 most generous lawmakers, only six of them remained in office for the 113th Congress, according to LegiStorm.

Two single-term GOP representatives who both lost their seats in November, Chip Cravaack of Minnesota and Allen West of Florida, took the third and fourth spots. Cravaack raised staffers’ pay from $213,407 in the third quarter to $357,112 in the final quarter, while West increased the amount of money he handed aides from $183,470 in the third quarter to $281,189 in the last quarter.

Rep. Devin Nunes of California took the fifth spot, making him the most generous of those still in the House. Former GOP Reps. Steve Austria and Steve LaTourette, both of Ohio, ex-Rep. Bob Turner, R-N.Y., ex-Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., and Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J. round out the top 10.

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The Republican edge in bonus levels is a sharp reversal from the 111th Congress, noted LegiStorm, when 18 of the top 20 most generous bonuses were from Democrats.

Members tend to justify the bonuses by saying that congressional staff are undercompensated compared to their peers in the executive branch and the private sector, LegiStorm said.

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