House campaign rules become issue in Missouri race
The Missouri Republican Party attacked Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) for appearing to keep his campaign manager on the official House payroll. According to the Jefferson City News-Tribune, the state GOP e-mailed a release linking to LegiStorm's data showing that Jason Rauch, now managing Skelton's campaign, earned more than $28,000 as a legislative assistant through the first six months of 2010.
Skelton's office said Rauch was placed on unpaid leave June 28 to work on the campaign.
It is not unusual for congressional staffers to go on leave without pay status to work on their boss's campaign and to avoid running afoul of ethics restrictions on campaign work and outside income. But even if Rauch had remained on Skelton's official payroll while working on the campaign, it would not violate House ethics rules as long as he did not do any campaign work using official resources or time, and continued to fulfill his official House duties.
Ethics rules prohibit members of Congress and their staff from campaigning while working in an official House capacity or using any House resources. Staffers are allowed to campaign during free time outside of working hours.
The guidelines also limit the amount of money senior staff can earn outside of their official duties. The restrictions apply to aides making above a certain income threshold - for 2010, the definition of senior staff is any aide earning a salary above $119,553, or an equivalent amount in any three-month period. Staffers who meet this definition are limited to $26,550 in outside income.
These outside income restrictions do not apply to staffers on leave without pay, meaning even senior staff can heavily supplement their official salary by working on campaigns while on leave. For example, in 2008 Steve Abbot, chief of staff for Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), earned $178,077 working for Collins' campaign in addition to his Senate salary.
UPDATE: LegiStorm's original post was unclear about Steve Abbot's campaign work. Although the Senate salary records are not as detailed as the House records about dates worked, Abbot's official salary was much lower in 2008 than other years, indicating he took leave or significantly reduced his official duties to work on the campaign.