Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Funding the Senate - Where Does All of the Money Go?

Thanks to the Sunlight Foundation, we now have an inside look at where the do-nothing Senate spends taxpayers' money.  The information is provided every six months by the Secretary of the Senate who issues a massive 1800 page-long report on expenditures that is pretty much useless to analysts but, thanks to the Sunlight Foundation, we are now able to make some sense of where the Senate spends money.  Let's look at some examples from the time period between October 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014, focussing on non-Senator staff expenses.  Please keep in mind that the expenses or salaries are for a six month period only.  To put staff expenses into perspective, each Senator's base pay for the six month period is $87,000.

1.) Barry C. Black, the Chaplain to the Senate, was paid $75,349.93.

2.) Carrie Lynn Dove, the Mail Room Coordinator, was paid $25,573.93

3.) Patricia M Engle, a Cloakroom Assistant, was paid $38,014.93.  Interestingly, there are a total of seven Cloakroom Assistants who make between $17,499.96 and the aforementioned $38,014.93.

4.) There are two barber/stylists who were paid a total of $39083.84.  I am assuming that the amount given does not include tips.  In case you weren't aware, the Senate also has five hairstylists on staff who received between $14,129.49 and $27,524.88 over the six months.

5.) There are two cabinet makers on staff that were paid a total of $56,334.79.  If you include the salaries for the cabinet designer and the cabinet shop supervisor, the salaries paid for the four employees over the six month period jump to $158'795.03.

6.) The Senate is even interested in the climate.  Over the six month peril, Chief Climate Counsel Joseph Mendelson III was paid $82,912.50.

7.) There are a total of 86 Chiefs of Staff who worked for the entire six month period.  In total, they were paid $6.895 million or an average of $80,174.04.

8.) The Senate has a lot to communicate to voters.  As such, over the six month period, they had 73 Communications Directors who were employed for the full six months, making a total of $4.234 million between them.

9.) Constituents are obviously an important part of being a Senator.  To that end, the Senate has a raft of positions like Constituent Services Directors, Constituent Services Representatives, Constituent Advocates and Constituent Liaisons.  In fact, over the six month period, 328 Americans were employed in some form of constituent service provision, costing American taxpayers a total of $6.673 million.  Please note that this excludes Directors of Constituent Services which employed an additional 21 staff over at least part of the six month period.  It is interesting to note that 328 constituent services personnel make less than 86 Chiefs of Staff, so apparently, constituents aren't quite as important once they've cast their votes.

10.)  Doorkeeping is obviously very important to Senators, in fact, it's so important that they hired a total of 36 Doorkeepers, Doorkeeper Managers or Doorkeeper Supervisors at some point during the six months, paying them a total of $653,552.71.  If you should happen to have found yourself at the top of the heap as a Doorkeeper Manager, you would have earned $59,413.66 for six months of work.

11.) There are a plethora of Legislative Assistants.  Over the six months, there were a total of 260 Legislative Assistants who were paid a total of $8.559 million.  Please note that this does not include the large number of Legislative Aides.

12.) There are 22 mail carriers.  For the six month period, their total compensation was $432,852.22 or an average of $19,675.10 each.  In total, there are 64 staff members associated with "mail".

Let's close with this item.  There were a significant number of $35 payments that appeared in the category "Fees and Other Charges", in fact, there were nearly 50 payments to a company that goes by the name of "Shred It", located in Arkansas, Phoenix and Memphis among others.  Along with Shred It, there were other companies gainfully occupied in shredding all of those incriminating documents including Proshred, Shredding Network, Shred X, Gone for Good Shredding, American Document Shredding and A Shred Ahead.   I think that speaks for itself.

Thanks to the Sunlight Foundation, we now know that, in total over the six month period from October 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014, the Senate cost American taxpayers $316,346,057.40 on over 41000 line items.

In a future posting, I'll take a more detailed look at some of the Senator's travel and miscellaneous expenses which I'm certain will provide us with some cheap, or should I say expensive, entertainment.


  1. You would think as rich as most of senators are they could afford to get their hair cut and styled without costing the tax payer....

  2. Great article PJ, as always. I maintain that public servants must be held to a higher standard regarding income and expenses, as public funds (forced taxation) must show a net public benefit. Unlike the private sector, where one has a distinct option to unload shares in a company that is being mismanaged and invest elsewhere; this is not often the case with government. Your article comes on the heels of news recently released that Canadians pay more on taxes than any other expense (food, housing etc.) Thus, when one hears about the financial inefficiency that often takes place within government spending, it should elicit a strong response from the electorate.

    I have come to understand that humans are utility maximizers. This principle can be applied to the entire political spectrum. Whether one works for a union, industry, government or charity, humans will invariably feel entitled to more while expecting to do less work.