Ranks of highest-earning House staff increases dramatically
In what could make for some uncomfortable moments for lawmakers on the campaign trail this year, Politico has used LegiStorm data to show a dramatic increase in the number of congressional staff earning top wages as Americans struggle with depressed earnings.
In the past five years, the number of House of Representative staffers making near the maximum allowed has jumped 39 percent, even after accounting for a decrease last year.
In 2005, there were 203 staffers near the wage ceiling. In 2008, the number shot up to 304 people before dropping slightly to 282 people last year.
Although many congressional aides earn relatively low wages for long hours - starting salaries in high-priced Washington, D.C. are often less than $30,000 - the increase in the number of highly-paid House staff may not sit well with people still reeling from high unemployment and other effects of the recession.
Overall, nearly 2,000 House employees - out of about 10,000 total - made more than $100,000 in 2009. Forty-three people made the maximum $172,500, or $1,500 less than most members of Congress.
For Politico's story, LegiStorm looked for the number of staffers making near the maximum salary. There are slightly different caps for employees working for committees and leadership offices than for aides in members' official offices – in 2009, the cap was $168,411 for member offices and $172,500 for some committee and leadership employees. In order to account for slight variations in the data, we counted the number of staffers who made 97% of the lower cap. For the most recent year, that meant the 282 staffers making more than $163,358.LegiStorm complied the figures from the House's quarterly expense reports, which include salaries paid to staffers. The Senate data is released every six months rather than every quarter and is reported on a fiscal year cycle rather than calendar year, making it harder to work with.