Benghazi committee staffers’ salaries look a lot worse given the “work” they do

Major Brad Podliska, a former staffer on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, says that he was fired from the committee after refusing to focus his investigative efforts exclusively on Hillary Clinton. And now that he’s no longer employed by the committee, the self-described conservative Republican wants everyone to know just how much of a waste of government time and resources the committee represents.

From the New York Times:

With the slow progress, members have engaged in social activities like a wine club nicknamed “Wine Wednesdays,” drinking from glasses imprinted with the words “Glacial Pace,” a dig at Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland and the committee’s ranking member, Major Podliska said. Mr. Cummings used the term to question the speed of the committee’s work.

At one point, several Republican staff members formed a gun-buying club and discussed in the committee’s conference room the 9-millimeter Glock handguns they intended to buy and what type of monograms they would inscribe on them, Major Podliska said.

A quick search on Legistorm, which tracks congressional spending, shows that Podliska and other staffers on the committee were being paid handsomely for their time. Based on the most recent payment period available, from April to June, Podliska and Sara Barrineau, the two staffers on the committee with the title of “Investigator,” show reported salaries of $130,000 per year. Phil Kiko and Susanne Grooms, who both have the title of Staff Director/General Counsel, have the highest salaries, topping $170,000 per year. But perhaps more remarkable is how high the salary floor is on the committee. In a Congress where most offices dramatically underpay their staff, none of the reported salaries for people who worked for the entire payment period and had titles other than “Intern” and “Shared Employee” were paid less than $10,000 between April and June of this year (or a $40,000 per year salary). Of the 28 full time/non-shared employees on the committee during that payment period, 20 of them were paid more than $25,000 during the payment period ($100,000 per year). The average yearly salary for these 28 staffers was $123,659.37.

This wouldn’t be particularly notable if the staffers on the committee were doing actual work. Pay in offices for members of Congress is much, much lower, but those offices also have far more entry-level employees. Average pay on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, a closer analog to the Benghazi Committee in both size and profile of titles, is also above $100,000 a year. However, as the Times and others have reported, and as numerous members of Congress have intimated — accidentally or otherwise — these staffers on the Benghazi committee are a government-funded opposition research team for the Republican Party, and a woefully inefficient one at that. Again from the Times:

Trey Gowdy, chair of the Benghazi Committee, via Wikimedia Commons

Trey Gowdy, chair of the Benghazi Committee, via Wikimedia Commons

But for months, documents and interviews show, the work of the Benghazi committee has been affected by delays and dysfunction.

The process of setting up an electronic system to manage more than 50,000 pages of documents that the committee has assembled is still not complete, meaning that staff members sometimes have to search through boxes to find critical pieces of paper — an almost comical task, staff members said.

The documents do show that since the March revelations about Mrs. Clinton’s email server, the committee has continued to interview officials outside the State Department. Since then 10 intelligence officials — including C.I.A. operatives who were on the ground in Benghazi — and four from the Department of Defense have been interviewed.

But an approximate tally produced by the Democratic minority staff shows that the committee has so far followed up with only a third of the potential witnesses from the intelligence community, none of the six from the White House and fewer than half from the Defense Department. Meanwhile, more than 70 percent of the potential witnesses from the State Department have been interviewed.

The House Select Committee on Benghazi is on track to pay over $3.6 million in salaries in 2015, and that money is being spent on staff that is splitting time grinding out a political agenda (yes, at a “glacial pace”) and day drinking in the office. For conservatives wailing about the politicization of government and the need to trim the fat out of government, the House Select Committee on Benghazi seems like the perfect place to start.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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15 Responses to “Benghazi committee staffers’ salaries look a lot worse given the “work” they do”

  1. dcinsider says:

    True but you still buried the lead. I’d stay away from the salary issue.

  2. Jon Green says:

    I got there eventually:

    “This wouldn’t be particularly notable if the staffers on the committee were doing actual work. Pay in offices for members of Congress is much, much lower, but those offices also have far more entry-level employees. Average pay on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, a closer analog to the Benghazi Committee in both size and profile of titles, is also above $100,000 a year. However, as the Times and others have reported, and as numerous members of Congress have intimated — accidentally or otherwise — these staffers on the Benghazi committee are a government-funded opposition research team for the Republican Party, and a woefully inefficient one at that.”

  3. gratuitous says:

    True enough; it’s under the heading of “If it’s not this, it’s that,” or the “Heads I win, tails you lose” school of discussion. For example, President Obama going to Roseburg last week in the aftermath of the Umpqua Community College massacre. He goes, so the knee-jerk reaction is “He’s not welcome here! Go away!” If he doesn’t go, the knee-jerk reaction is “He doesn’t care about real Americans in small towns.”

    There’s no winning because there’s always something for the knee-jerkers to complain about. I come down on the side of pursuing the course you think best, because there’s always going to be the fault-finders.

  4. dcinsider says:

    I don’t think it was Jon’s intention either. But when you get into a discussion of salaries it confuses the real issue, which is why is this committee in operation at all.

  5. gratuitous says:

    My reading is rather different. It’s taking on not the salaries, but the work being done. Apparently the staff folks on this committee are conducting committee business by having their Wine Wednesdays and holding their gun-buying club meetings in committee conference rooms. Those activities don’t really seem to have much to do with the official business of the committee.

    Or maybe they do?

  6. 2karmanot says:

    Agreed!

  7. dcinsider says:

    Posts like this are dangerous. Yes, there is blatant hypocrisy present in the taxpayer-funded waste of money on this committee. However, the suggestion that staffers on Capitol Hill (or in the federal government) are overpaid is pure Republican BS. Agree with them or not, many of these people would be much more highly paid in the private sector.

    The committee’s work is waste of money, and accordingly any salaries paid are a waste of money, but let’s not focus on the amounts so much. Like many federal workers, staff on the Hill are grossly UNDERPAID. If some of these committee staff members were paid in a category more appropriate for their positions, experience, and education (even these positions) it is not the amount they were paid that is the scandal, it was that the committee exists at all is the scandal.

    This post buries the lead, and it focuses on the wrong issue.

  8. tigerp says:

    Ol’Hippy – the consensus from my non-hostile and thinking libertarian associates is that the R’s are done – Bernie the Socialist is already POTUS to them, nothing they can do about it — works for me~ of course, they are not happy about this and will continue to complain about takers and taxes, but feel it is inevitable.

  9. tigerp says:

    perhaps the answer depends upon whether they are permitted to open carry their newly monogrammed Glocks and bring their wine and glasses? Snark aside, how would we ever know?

  10. The_Fixer says:

    Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha! You’re quite the comedian, I tell ya.

  11. Indigo says:

    It’s always nice to have one’s suspicions confirmed by an inside voice.

  12. gratuitous says:

    Well, isn’t that nice for them? Maybe Jason Chaffetz of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee could take a look into the workings of the House Select Committee on Benghazi?

  13. rwlorenz says:

    Of course the Benghazi panel is a political fraud, but what if there were an event that actually called for a Congressional investigation. Do these various clowns and public leeches have the competence to execute a real investigation?

  14. JaneE says:

    Ah yes, the party of small government.

  15. Ol' Hippy says:

    More hypocrisy from the right, create endless committees to investigate unfounded claims meanwhile talking of trimming the pork of govt spending. The ridiculous excuse called Congress continues to obfuscate and confuse while nothing for the American people is being done. Where does it all end? If the GOP self-destructs this Xmas after they shut down the govt over ridiculous meaningless spending cuts I feel that might be the death blow for the GOP.

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