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

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

December 25th, 2011 by Chris Carroll in News

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.

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WHERE THE MONEY GOES

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.

IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

• 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.

IN 4TH DISTRICT

• 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.


HOW MUCH DID THEY SPEND ON STAFF?

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


NATIONAL STAFF SALARY RANKINGS

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."