Newly-elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has turned her congressional office into a socialism experiment.
However, it’s unclear if she’ll be playing by the same rules she’s forcing on others.
Yahoo News reported that the New York Representative promised to pay entry-level staffers a minimum of $52,000 a year is a 34% increase compared to the median annual salary of staff assistants in the House nationally, according to an analysis by Yahoo Finance.
Using data from research firm LegiStorm, Yahoo Finance found that the median pay for an entry-level staff assistant job in the House is $34,231 nationally. And looking at 10 states in the northeast — Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont — the median annual salary is $36,527 a year.
Progressives love the idea, and lashed out at Fox when they criticized it.
Watch the video:
The higher entry-level pay means her senior staff would have to take a substantial pay cut, however, AOC refuses to say whether she will be one of the people taking a pay cut.
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is refusing to say whether she will subject her own $174,000 congressional salary to the $80,000 cap she has set for her staff.
Numerous attempts were made by the Washington Examiner to obtain comment from the New York congresswoman’s office about whether she would adhere to the cap, which she says she instituted to be able to pay her lower paid employees a proper “living wage” of $52,000.
But her office declined to respond, and it does not appear Ocasio-Cortez herself has publicly offered to limit her earnings, even if only by donating to charity the difference between her congressional pay and her office limit.
If she doesn’t, she will continue to collect more than twice as much as any of her staffers.
Congressional staff salaries take up the bulk of each office’s Members’ Representation Allowance, or MRA. MRAs, which the Congressional Research Service said averaged $1,368,520 in 2018, are also used to cover other official office expenses and franked mail expenses.
The House members’ congressional handbook prohibits using personal funds on franked mail, but it states that any other money spent over their MRA allocation will be paid out of the member’s personal funds.
Ocasio-Cortez has called to increase congressional MRAs so offices can pay staffers at the low end of the salary spectrum a higher wage.
Her office’s $80,000 cap on staff salaries is far below the $154,634 average salary for congressional chiefs of staff and $177,292 maximum staff salary allowed by law. Former Rep. Dan Lungren, who chaired the Committee on House Administration and was responsible for House office budgets, previously told the Washington Examiner that Ocasio-Cortez’s staff salary cap could result in high turnover.
On the other hand, top staffers such as Ocasio-Cortez’s 33-year-old chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti may benefit from the cap because it allows them to dodge financial disclosurerequirements required by law for staffers who earn more than $126,148 per year.
Chakrabarti is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who bought a $1.6 million house in Montgomery County, Md., last June. A Federal Election Commission complaint filed March 4 alleges that he improperly funneled $1 million from PACs he founded to two private companies he controlled. The companies don’t face the same reporting requirements of PACs.
Ocasio-Cortez’s salary was called into question during the partial government shutdown earlier this year. Despite calling to furlough congressional salaries before she took office, it was unclear whether Ocasio-Cortez joined dozens of other lawmakers who publicly announced that they would forfeit or donate their salaries during the shutdown.
“It’s completely unacceptable that members of Congress can force a government shutdown on partisan lines & then have Congressional salaries exempt from that decision,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a December 2018 tweet. “Have some integrity.”
“No member of Congress, Democrat or Republican, should take a paycheck during the shutdown,” she tweeted in January 2018. “Solidarity is essential to leadership.”
But Ocasio-Cortez refused to answer a question on the day she assumed office about forfeiting her salary during the shutdown, responding to the New York Post: “I’ve gotta run!” Her name did not appear on an early list of lawmakers pledging to forfeit their salaries.
The New York congresswoman said in November that she was worried about affording rent in Washington, D.C., in the three months between the election and being sworn into office. She now lives in a luxury Washington, D.C., apartment complex that does not offer affordable housing units to poorer people, something that was a key plank in her campaign platform.
She did not respond to requests for comment from the Examiner about whether she took her salary during the shutdown.