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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

EXCLUSIVE: Salaries of Top NM Capitol Hill Aides: Why So Hard To Get? Alligators Guide Me; Info Released Here Is First In Years, Part One Today  

What government info is some of the hardest for regular Joe Citizen to come by? Spy satellite locations? Nuclear weapons design? Nah. That's all floating around the Internet. But what isn't and takes the prize for hardest to find is the salaries of those who toil on Capitol Hill on behalf of our congressmen and senators. It's not on the Net or in the newspapers or on the blogs...until now.

With the help of several Alligators, I prowled the federal bureaucracy in search of this prized info. I soon found myself traversing through rarely seen catacombs and did not give up until I found my elusive booty. I found it alright. But it wasn't easy telling just what I found. The Alligators and I needed a calculator to figure it all out because only quarterly pay is reported. And then there's the "Christmas" bonuses on the U.S. House side. But we spent some hours parsing and are confident that our numbers are on the money so to speak. If they are off it's only by a little.

Oh yeah, we earned our keep on this one. Not to mention that my nice two-ply cashmere sweater now has big gray elbow dimples on it from crawling on my hands and knees on a dusty concrete floor to retrieve the most recently available "Statement of Disbursements of the House," and the one for the U.S. Senate too. This thing has literally thousands of pages and lists every congressional office expense (in the finest of fine print, of course) including bottled water bills.

But what good is a blogger if he doesn't get out of his pajamas once in a while and dare to go where he is dared not to? So here we go. Part one of my exclusive report on the wages of Capitol Hill. Today the U.S. House. Tomorrow the Senate. Does it sound like we're taking over?

HAIL TO THE CHIEFS

Bryce Dustman
The highest paid staffer in a congressional office is the Chief of Staff. That's the guy or gal who bosses the other 20 or some employees in the office. Congressmen and Senators are paid $158,100 a year. Under new rules, a staffer can max out at over $156k. almost as much as the big boss! None of our NM Chief's of Staff in the House neared that total, but they are doing pretty well. Our figures are from mid-2004 when the maximum was about 154k.

Bryce Dustman, top dog to GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson of ABQ appears to take the prize for highest paid NM House staffer. He pulls down about $127,300, according to our calculations done on a solar-powered calculator in the dank and dark rooms where we scoured the reports. Jim Richards, chief to Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) is right behind, getting about $126,000 a year. Pulling up the rear is the chief for the only Dem in the NM delegation, Rep. Tom Udall of the North. He's Tom Nagle and he makes $95,000. A Capitol insider tells us the average chief of staff on the Hill pulls down $108,000.

WHAT THEY ARE MAKING


LEGISLATIVE DIRECTORS
: Erik Einerton---Rep. Wilson--$52,000,
Michael Collins--Rep.. Udall--$50,000, Matthew Meagher--Rep, Pearce--$61,000.

DISTRICT OFFICE MANAGERS: Julie Dreike--Rep. Wilson--$65,000, Michelle Jacquez-Ortiz--Rep. Udall--$66,000, Peggy Mallow--Rep. Pearce--$66,000

COMMUNICATIONS/PRESS
: Enrique Knell--Rep. Wilson--$53,000, Joel Hannahs, Press Asst.--Rep. Wilson--$44,000, Glenn Loveland--Rep. Udall--$46,000, Gail Gitcho--Rep. Pearce--$53,000 (Gitcho recently left Pearce's office)

OTHER SALARIES OF NM D.C. STAFFERS


Johanna Polsenberg, Sr. Leg. Asst.--Rep. Udall--$50,000,
Donda Morgan, Off. Manager--Rep. Udall--$57,000

Ricardo Bernal, Sr. Leg. Asst.--Rep. Pearce--$55,000,
Barbara Cohen, Ex. Asst.--Rep. Wilson--$45,000

SHOW US THE MONEY

Chief of Staff is the plum Hill job, with a pretty steep- fall-off after that. But the other salaries aren't shabby and for New Mexicans who labor in a low-wage state, they aren't exactly lemons. Now, if my Alligators and I are off by a couple of hundred bucks I am sure we'll hear. To that we will respond: why not just make it easy for us Congress folk and release, as was done years ago, salary info in an annual salary report? If not, don't worry. Every once in a while a field trip is good for us bloggers. We have to launder those pajamas sometime.

Be here tomorrow for Part Two of my exclusive report on congressional wages when we look at the U.S. Senate!

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2005
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