Zing! Another zippy press release from Team Specter

Arlen Specter’s campaign has grown increasingly critical of opponent Joe Sestak in recent weeks. A press release issued today continues that trend, charging the congressman with paying his campaign staffers below-minimum wage salaries. Analyzing data from  Federal Election Commission reports, Team Specter says many Sestak staffers make so little that they’re eligible for food stamps. “Sestak pays his brothe and two sisters that work for his campaign an average of $3,685 a month,” the presser reads, “but pays the staffers not related to him an average of just $1,461 a month.”

Several Sestak staffers have left the campaign in recent weeks — See PoliticsPA for more details.

Full release below:

Joe Sestak Pays Most Campaign Staffers Less Than Livable Wage
Unless They Are Related to Him

Sestak pays the staffers not related to him so little that most
Receive less than minimum wage and qualify for food stamps

Harrisburg – According to a review of his official Federal Election Commission reports, Cong. Joe Sestak pays his brother and two sisters that work for his campaign an average of $3,685 a month, but pays the staffers not related to him an average of just $1,461 a month – well below the region’s livable wage scale.

Sestak even pays 10 of the 16 staffers not related to him below the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Incredibly, Sestak pays those 10 non-related staffers so little that they are all eligible for food stamps. http://bit.ly/aJGfZs

Sestak has more than $5 million stashed away in his campaign account according to his 2009 campaign expense report filed on January 30, 2010. http://bit.ly/dr5vuG

Ironically, though Sestak does not pay his campaign staff a livable wage, Sestak voted for an increase to the minimum wage in 2007, saying then: “People who work every day deserve to be treated with integrity and respect, and they deserve a living wage. No one who works for a living should have to live in poverty.” http://sestak.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=797&Itemid=30

The minimum wage is now $7.25 per hour, so a 40-hour work week yields $290 per week which averages to $1,256 per month. ($290 per week times 52 weeks = $15,080 divided by 12 months = $1256 per month). It’s common for campaign staffers to work longer than a typical 40-hour work week.

Sestak has emphasized the need for a basic living wage during his campaign for Senate. A living wage calculator created by Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier of Penn State University estimates that a living wage for a single person living in Delaware County, where Sestak’s campaign headquarters is located, is $9.62 per hour. The 16 Sestak staffers not related to him are paid an average of $8.42 per hour – or 13% below the living wage. (http://bit.ly/9EFLbT)

For example, Sestak campaign staffer Jenn Medeiros was paid $574.18 a month, according to Sestak’s FEC report; the same report showed that Sestak paid staffer Jordan Libowitz $616.34 per month in October, November and December of 2009 – not per week, but per month. Staffer Joe Langdon was paid $1,108.51 per month.

Sestak’s siblings fared much better on the pay scale. Cong. Sestak’s brother Richard was paid $3,897 per month, while his sisters Margaret Infantino and Elizabeth Sestak made $3,629 and $3,527 respectively per month last October through December. The campaign salaries paid to Sestak’s three siblings accounted for 41% of the total salaries paid in that time period. In total, Sestak has paid his siblings more than $337,000 during his political campaigns, beginning in 2006.

“This is a disgrace, especially for someone who calls himself a progressive Democrat,” said John Garrity, President of the International Federation of Professional Engineers Local #3 in Philadelphia. “Cong. Sestak talks a good story on minimum wage and livable wage and wants other companies to pay it but he won’t do it himself. With Joe Sestak you need to watch what he does, not what he says.”

“This is yet another example of Cong. Sestak thinking there’s one set of rules for him, and another for everyone else,” said Christopher Nicholas, Senator Specter’s campaign manager. “Sestak needs to explain why he thinks this is acceptable behavior, paying his staff so little that many of them qualify for food stamps.”

Sestak has lost numerous campaign staff in the past several weeks (http://bit.ly/aEHDtW) and is still without a campaign manager. (http://bit.ly/8WyOZq)

In 2006, Heather Boushey, then an economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington who later worked for the Joint Economic Committee, said, “For me, it raises a moral and ethical question: if you want to live in a society where if people work they deserve to have a decent standard of living, you have to pay people that wage. Employers are making choices — these are not laws of nature.”

Specter campaign staffers were paid an average of $3800 per month during the 4th Quarter of 2009. Attached is a Sestak staff salary report.


About pubradiopolitics
Scott covers state government and politics for Pennsylvania's public radio stations, including WITF in Harrisburg, WHYY in Philadelphia and WDUQ in Pittsburgh.

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