Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Politics: Congress Pays Bonuses, Wilson, Udall, Too

It's one of those gotcha stories journalists love in the dark recesses holding their sense of humor.
Today's Wall Street Journal has a story on page A5 headlined, "Congress Thinks Bonuses Are Fine—for Its Own Employees." Tucked into the 19th inch of the 25 inch the story (and thereby verifying my truism that the good stuff is at the bottom of the story) was this item, "
"A handful lawmakers who retired handed out a total of $283,000 in bonuses. After Republican Heather Wilson gave up her New Mexico seat in the House to run unsuccessfully for the Senate, she gave 13 aides bonuses as high as $3,000. 'My practice over ten years in Congress was to give bonuses at the end of the year,' she said."
Tom Udall, now Senator, played a more complex game.
The story says, "Last fall, Democratic Rep Tom Udall left the house to run for New Mexico's Senate seat. Several members of his House staff took leaves from their government jobs to work for his campaign. When Mr. Udall won the race and returned to Washington, his office budget had accrued a large surplus. He decided to spend the surplus funds by increasing salaries for nearly his entire staff for a short time. Disbursement forms show that in late December, Mr. Udall temporarily increased salaries for 19 of his 22 employees at an annualized rate of $163,796. Among those who earned the higher pay were staff assistants, a scheduler, an executive assistant, and a part-time employee. Spokeswoman Marissa Padilla said Mr. Udall traditionally 'adjusts salaries at the end of the year based on seniority, merit and unused leave' when his office has a surplus."
This congressional bonus thing seems cultural. Wilson is said to be considering running for governor. We should ask if she plans to bring the D.C. culture to state government where it would seem to fit nicely. For Udall, at least, what happens in D.C., stays in D.C.

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