Pete & Jeff
They call it the "world's most exclusive club," but the bottom line is that it's a hundred guys and gals and thousands of staffers who are supported by your tax dollars. That's the premise of our two part series on what the top aides for the NM Congressional delegation pull down each year. And judging from the reaction to part one, most of you agree.
Old-timers chuckled via e-mail that this stuff used to be common knowledge and they were glad to see it out there again. Others warned that it costs a lot more to live in D.C. than NM, so don't begrudge the higher pay. We don't. We just begrudge the amateurish secretiveness of the Congress in trying to keep this info hard to find. So in that spirit let's go to part two of the wages of Capitol Hill.
CHIEF OF THE HILL
As in the House, Chief of Staff is the top job in a U.S. Senate office. But the job pays a lot more if you manage to get in thick with one of the 100 Senators. Surprisingly, it appears from the digging we did, that the Chief of Staff for Dem NM Senator Jeff Bingaman noses out his counterpart in the office of GOP NM Sen. Pete Domenici. Figures from mid-2004 show Bingaman Staff Chief Stephen Ward taking in $152,852 compared with Domenici Chief of Staff Steve Bell who, by our calculations, was making $151,492.
Bell is the longtime alter ego of Domenici and one of the Hill's more powerful staffers, speaking for Pete with authority. He made a lot more money when he left the Senator's staff in the the 90's and went to work at a Wall Street investment bank. Now, instead of big pay for Bell, there is the lure of power that can only be found at the center of government. There may have been pay raises since our count, so Ward could be behind Bell. If not, Steve may have to call Pete and use some of his persuasive powers to get up to par with his rival.
Both Bell and Ward are close to the cap of what a staffer is allowed to make. This year it goes to the $156K area with Rep's and Senators making $158,100. Never have staffers been able to get that close on the wage scale to their bosses.
If a Senator is chairman of a committee, or in the case of the minority Dems, a "ranking member" on a committee, they get to name staff. For Bingaman, ranking member on the Senate Energy Committee, he has put in place Robert Simon who appears to be the highest paid staffer associated with the NM Congressional delegation at $153,164. "Committee is where a staffer can make the good money," said one former Hill aide. Alex Flint, a Domenici staffer on Energy, started off last year at $138,940, but, according to my Alligators, has probably already risen to the Simon area.
STAFF PAY FOR NM SENATORS
Edward Hild, Leg. Dir.--Sen. Domenici--$94,520
Trudy Vincent, Leg. Dir.--Sen. Bingaman--$114,336
Randall Soderquist, Leg. Asst.--Bingaman--$70,516
Daniel Alpert, Leg. Asst.--Bingaman--$85,626
James Dennis, Leg. Asst.--Bingaman--$80,590
Lisa Breeden (NM)--Domenici--$68,788
Terry Brunner, State Dir.--Bingaman--$71,386
Joe Trujillo, Field Rep.--Domenici--$75,072
Poe Corn, Roswell--Domenici--$66,476
Lynden Armstrong, Admin/Systems Dir.--Domenici--$96,172
David Pike, Dep. Chief of Staff--Bingaman--$69,682
Joyce Pullen, ABQ Off. Mgr.--Domenici--$44,200
Virginia White, Ex. Asst.--Bingaman--$71,698
And there you have it. Not a complete list but the highlights. A couple of staffers listed in our reports the last two days are now gone, but their positions continue. Pay raises may have been given to some staffers since these mid-2004 numbers were compiled.
While we were putting together our D.C. salary report, word came to us of the death of Peter Wellish, onetime press secretary to Senator Domenici. Wellish, a radio news reporter, worked the ABQ market before signing up with Pete in the late 70's. He went on to become Rev. Peter Wellish and executive director of the Hospice of Saint John in Lakewood, Colorado. It's reported that Wellish had heart problems. He died December 8. He was 54.
New Mexico also took note of the passing of a veteran former state senator this week. W.S. "Smitty" Eoff, a 12 year member of the senate from McKinley County, died at his Pagosa Springs, CO ranch January 25. Eoff was 84.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2005
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