Monday, May 05, 2008

Is Walberg Paying Campaign Staff?

As I mentioned in my previous post, someone sent me a MIRS article a while back with two interesting items in it. Here's the second one.

In the article, one might read:
One interesting line item was campaign staff payroll. Peters led the pack by shelling out $55,506 in employee compensation and taxes. Knollenberg spent $35,640 for campaign staff payroll.

In the 7th, Schauer paid out $7,651 for employee salary and a housing stipend. But Walberg spent nothing on staff, although Chief of Staff Joe WICKS has answered press questions on behalf of the campaign and staff has sent out at least one e-mail on campaign issues.

Walberg congressional press secretary Matt LAHR responded, "All volunteering by staff members is done on their own time, and frankly I am disappointed you are asking me about this, instead of Congressman Walberg's legislative initiative to stop a $680 billion tax increase that was voted on this week on the House floor."

Typically, congressional staff go on formal leave from the federal payroll to work for the campaign by now, especially in one of the top races in the country where there's already a lot of activity. Otherwise, a campaign can be open to FEC complaints.

Schauer campaign spokesman B.J. NEIDHARDT declined to comment if Schauer was looking into the matter.
(Emphasis added.)

As I noted in the FEC disclosure posts, Walberg spent more last quarter than Schauer-- about $33,000 more. Thus far, Schauer hasn't spent a whole lot on his campaign in general, and while his staff salary amount seems a little low, there is some logic to it. Walberg spent $100,000 in a single quarter, but absolutely none of it was on staff? And yet, as the article notes, someone has been working on the campaign, mostly Walberg congressional staffers.

From what I can tell, there are two ways this works. Either A.) Walberg is making his staff work extra for the campaign and he's not paying them, or B.) Walberg is making his staff work for the campaign during business hours and is paying them with government funds.

Neither of those sound good to me.

The excuse made by Walberg's spokesperson, "All volunteering by staff members is done on their own time," seems a little unrealistic to me. An entire office being willing to do extra work for absolutely no pay, especially when congressional staff salaries aren't that great to begin with, would require an incredible amount of loyalty and devotion to Congressman Walberg. I'm just a little skeptical. Generally, when a campaign asks its staff to work without pay, it's a bad sign.

Some of you might remember a story that I wrote about in January, in which I was told that Walberg's congressional staff was asked to go the entire campaign season without taking any vacation time. From that post:
When asked whether that meant Walberg's staff would be required to help on the campaign, apparently they were told that they couldn't be required, but, if anyone wanted a job next year, they had to "do their part."

Some staffers, from what I hear, already had vacation plans. They are not pleased about this. Apparently, they were told that as employees of a "targeted" congressman, they should have expected these kinds of sacrifices.
(Emphasis added.)

Note that the entire story was brought to me by just one source, and in the comments, it was challenged by an anonymous commenter (and I updated the post to reflect that). I can't comment on whether or not that story was actually true, because I don't usually hear much from Walberg's staffers, disgruntled or not.

At the same time, this thing about all volunteering by staff members being done on their own time sounds eerily reminiscent of everyone having to "do their part" and make these kinds of sacrifices.

Then again, I could be wrong. Walberg's staff could be just that devoted. Maybe I'm just cynical.

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