House Democrats Dominate Top 50 Spenders on Staff Salaries

July 22, 2020 Updated: July 22, 2020

Democrats occupy 21 of the top 25 and 39 of the top 50 spenders on congressional staff aides in a ranking of all 437 members of the current House of Representatives, according to data compiled by LegiStorm.

While Democrats have the House majority now in the 116th Congress, the rankings were almost identical in the previous Republican-led 115th Congress in 2017 and 2018, with 19 of the top 25 House slots going to Democrats, as well as 36 of the top 50.

The rankings measure how much in tax dollars and as a percentage of a currently serving representative’s total office budget is devoted to hiring staff aides for offices in Washington and also in the member’s home district.

Each member receives $1.25 million to $1.43 million annually, depending on their district, to cover office expenses, including personnel, equipment, rent, travel, and related costs.

LegiStorm compiles the data from official congressional reports as they are filed by individual members’ offices each quarter. The massive database, which goes back to 2000, is available by subscription only.

Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) tops the list for the current House, spending $291,516, or 93.3 percent, of his total available office budget through the first quarter of 2020 and all of 2019.

The average for all 437 House members for the same period is $234,047, or 82.8 percent of the available budget during the covered period.

Higgins employs seven aides in his Washington office and another nine in two district offices located in Buffalo and Niagara Falls. The median salary for Higgins’s staff is $57,594, compared to the House average of $53,145.

The median U.S. household income was $61,937 in 2018, the latest available year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Higgins has been in Congress since 2005, and his staff has a low turnover rate of 0.12, compared to the House average of 0.48, according to LegiStorm.

The first Republican House member on the list is Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois in fourth place, spending $280,721, or 91.5 percent, of his available office budget on a staff of 13 aides. Six of the aides are in Shimkus’s Washington office, with seven working out of three district offices.

Shimkus has a turnover rate at 0.21 and he pays aides $61,167 on average, considerably more than the House average.

The only other Republicans in the top 25 are Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky (seventh), Rep. Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania (21st), and Rep. Michael Simpson of Idaho (25th).

Congressional observers told The Epoch Times on July 22 the LegiStorm data demonstrates a major difference between how representatives in each major political party manage their official office budgets.

“The data suggest that many Democrat lawmakers are either hiring more staffers to work in their personal offices, they are paying their hired aides more than the average member, or some combo of the two,” said Casey Burgat, a professor at George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management.

“Either way, the Democrats seem to be more committed to spending their office funds on their personal staff rather than travel or district office rents,” Burgat said.

As a senior fellow at the R Street Institute in 2019, Burgat completed a massive study of congressional staff compensation, compared to the private sector.

Washington-based Democratic campaign strategist Kevin Chavous lauded the LegiStorm data, noting that “Democrats cannot lead the fight for our middle-class workers while paying their own staffers low salaries … This data shows that most Democrats in Congress are being consistent with that message.”

Capitol Hill veteran Jimmy Williams, former senior economics counsel to Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), said: “Members should pay staff more. Period. These young men and women by and large run our country. They work long hours and live in D.C., where the cost of living is exorbitant.”

Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc.