published Sunday, December 25th, 2011

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais records second-lowest staff costs in U.S. House

by Chris Carroll
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.


U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais employed 14 staffers this year at a cost of $431,184, second-lowest in the House of Representatives. Here are their positions and a brief explanation of their duties.


• One chief of staff -- Manages overall office operations, including assignments, supervision and outcomes.

• One legislative director -- Checks legislative schedule, plans legislative initiatives and points out pros and cons of political issues.

• One communications director -- Maintains lines of communication between the member and the media. Drafts news releases, develops media strategy.

• One scheduler -- Coordinates appointments and the member's overall schedule.

• Two legislative assistants -- Examine legislative issues and help with committee work.

• One legislative correspondent -- Drafts responses to constituent communications (position currently vacant).

• One staff assistant -- Performs administrative duties, including answering phones and arranging tours.


• One district director -- Manages district events and supervises all district employees.

• Three field representatives -- Represent the member during meetings with local elected officials and constituents.

• Two caseworkers -- Resolve constituent problems with respect to federal agencies such as Social Security, Medicare and veteran benefits

Sources: Office of U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, CongressLink, CSPAN.


The Times Free Press studied congressional staff payments between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30. Here's how the Tennessee delegation stacks up:

1) Scott DesJarlais, R-Jasper -- $431,184

2) Stephen Fincher, R-Frog Jump -- $541,074

3) Diane Black, R-Gallatin -- $567,622

4) Chuck Fleischmann, R-Chattanooga -- $618,955

5) Phil Roe, R-Johnson City -- $694,590

6) Jimmy Duncan, R-Knoxville -- $720,091

7) Marsha Blackburn, R-Murfreesboro -- $722,099

8) Steve Cohen, D-Memphis -- $726,110

9) Jim Cooper, D-Nashville -- $869,640

Source: Legistorm


Here's a look at how some local and more nationally-known House members stacked up against their colleagues, from least expensive:

1) Joe Walsh, R-Ill. -- $412,286

2) Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn. -- $431,184

100) Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn. -- $618,955

111) Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. -- $629,532

121) Tom Graves, R-Ga. -- $636,454

130) Paul Ryan, R-Wis. -- $647,665

246) John Boehner, R-Ohio -- $719,282

368) Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. -- $797,321

383) Eric Cantor, R-Va. -- $816,836

391) Ron Paul, R-Texas -- $829,125

434) Barney Frank, D-Mass. -- $919,570

435) Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. -- $981,906

Source: Legistorm

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais went full tea party last year, campaigning across Tennessee's 4th Congressional District as a hard-line conservative all about rescuing an America "swallowed by big government."

Check out his staff salaries -- he wasn't kidding.

Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, DesJarlais paid his 14 local and Washington, D.C.-based aides the second-lowest salaries in all of Congress, according to a Chattanooga Times Free Press analysis that examined staff ledgers for all 435 representatives.

"With our current economic climate and my commitment to demand more efficient government at all levels, I have done my best to lead by example," the freshman congressman said in a written statement.

Other local lawmakers -- conservative, tea-flavored Republicans themselves -- cut some office costs, but fell way behind DesJarlais. U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., ranked 100th and U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., finished 121st on the frugality index.

The Times Free Press examined salary records maintained by Legistorm, a nonpartisan resource that tracks government spending.

On one level, the data confirms a political stereotype -- Democrats as big spenders and Republicans as penny-pinchers. All but six of the cheapest 50 staffs work for Republicans, while Democrats employ the 17 most lavishly paid staffs.

But like anything in politics, numbers don't tell the whole story. Congressional staffers who work for longtime House members often require more money than Capitol Hill rookies, and lawmakers often add staffers as they accumulate time and influence in Washington. A congressional district's standard of living also factors into how much local staffers get paid.

Still, DesJarlais' numbers are striking next to those of his colleagues. Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, DesJarlais paid 14 aides a combined $431,184, averaging $30,798 per aide.

Other conservatives -- U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann ($629,532) of Minnesota and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul ($829,125) of Texas among them -- were bigger spenders by comparison.

"I am pleased to have a dedicated team whose goal is to provide 4th District residents with the best constituent services possible," DesJarlais said in the statement. "I am proud of their efforts and commitment to the people that I represent."

Only U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, an Illinois Republican who doled out $412,286 to his employees, spent less than DesJarlais on staff. In the same time period, U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler, a Democrat from New York who represents part of Manhattan, had the highest collective staff salary -- $981,906.

House members are given about $1.4 million for rent, supplies, travel, phone, utilities, mail, equipment and staff salaries, aides said.

DesJarlais' spending on salary was 40 percent less than what his predecessor, Lincoln Davis, a Democrat and four-term congressman, handed out in his final year in Congress. Davis spent $715,436 on 18 employees between the beginning of January and the end of September 2010.

DesJarlais closed one of four district offices, cut salaries and didn't fill a few Davis-era positions, spokesman Robert Jameson said.

Fleischmann's year-to-year staff costs were 26 percent under those of his predecessor, eight-term Congressman Zach Wamp.

Between January and September, Fleischmann spent $618,955, falling squarely in the middle of Tennessee's delegation. Records show Wamp -- whose son, Weston, is challenging Fleischmann in the 2012 Republican primary -- spent $835,707 in the same time period last year.

Legislation passed earlier this year required all House members to cut their office budgets by 5 percent. But Chip Saltsman, Fleischmann's chief of staff, said cutting even further made sense since his boss ran as a fiscal conservative.

"We looked at coffee and travel and everything else," Saltsman said. "We wanted to cut."

DesJarlais and Fleischmann intend to return some unused funds to the U.S. Treasury at year's end, aides said. Next year's budget, passed by Congress last week, requires an additional 6.4 percent budget cut.

Democratic Reps. Steve Cohen of Memphis ($726,110) and Jim Cooper of Nashville ($869,640) employed the Tennessee delegation's most expensive staffs between January and September. They outspent even Rep. John "Jimmy" Duncan, a Knoxville Republican and the longest-serving member of Tennessee's delegation.

"Members make choices," said Katie Hill, a spokeswoman for Cooper.

"For example, some members will spend $100,000 on mailers, and Rep. Cooper has spent only $2,000. It's all about priorities."

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328Kwebsite said...

It is Representative DesJarlais' taking of unregulated, out-of-state money that is his most telling budget decision. During the campaign that put him in office, Representative DesJarlais reportedly accepted $951,445 in "Citizens United" style stealthpac money.

Selling our state's federal Representative seats is totally unacceptable. We urge voters to remove this corrupt politician from office as soon as the law allows.

Expunge corrupt Republicans from office. Require officeholders to have a genuine personal interest in their service to the public. Reject corruption. Reject Scott DesJarlais' habitual and unacceptable and embarrassing decisions about money.

Get our Representatives off of Karl Rove's payroll.

Stiffing workers to accept bribes and payoffs is not what we expect our state's Representatives. Remove Representative DesJarlais corrupt self from office as soon as elections allow.

December 25, 2011 at 1:39 a.m.
grandmastaj said...

It's easy to be cheap with your staff when you don't do anything.

December 25, 2011 at 6:51 a.m.
nowfedup said...

Got to agree he "Cut", as we sent four emails to that clown for assistance, never got one reply, This guy does zero, takes big money and really needs to be replaced, Lincoln was no prize, but this guy should be called "stealth rep" as appears to be there, but like gravity, you know it is there, but you cannot see it. He seems to be so low key he should send back wages, and stop hiring HS kids as staff or whatever he did. Big loser and usual double talk, cuts all but his campaign money?

December 25, 2011 at 10:24 a.m.
scout29c said...

Comparing congressional staff pay is interesting and informative but that is like comparing how much you send on a product with no mention of what the product is suppose to do. Missing from this story:

  1. Comparison of response to constituents needs
  2. Comparison of how much money representatives brings home to their district.
  3. Comparison of how much time they spend in their committees.
  4. Comparison of how much representative knows about the bills their voting on.
  5. Comparison of representatives’ priorities toward their constituents, party, or their faction such as the Tea Party.

Since Chucky got elected 3rd district rep, he has made news pushing for reductions of capital gains tax for his fat cat backers, but we read very little of funding for the Chickamauga lock project. Oak Ridge lives or dies on appropriated money but Chucky and his Tea Party cohorts are against that sort of thing.

Order of importance and priority to both Chucky and DesJarlais is first, the Tea Party, and then the fat cat moneybags that are backing them, and then the Republican Party, and then last and the least, the people they are suppose to represent.

December 25, 2011 at 10:32 a.m.
aidehua said...

Dr. Desjarlais should be congratulated for paring his budget and being a responsible legislator. I recall that labor unions outspent corporations in political donations in the last election. It doesn't appear that the Public Citizen includes union donations in their report. Lamar Alexander said long ago "Cut their pay and send them home." Rep. Desjarlais is operating a tight ship and being quite responsible with taypayer dollars. If only the rest of the Federal Government could follow his example - we might work our way out of the 15 trillion dollar hole that past politicians have saddled us with.

December 25, 2011 at 12:07 p.m.
pikeville said...

Where has he been on the proposal to close the oldest employer in our area Taft Youth Center. He sure hasn't attempted to help one employee or the group of officals fighting it. Elections are comming up and the people from DC don't vote in his back yard, but guess who does? I guess when he fails the people of his area he can return to Medicine. Hope he is better at helping people in that field.

December 26, 2011 at 11:34 p.m.
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