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September 17, 2014

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Politics:

Dina Titus gave staff $155,000 in bonuses on way out of office

Dina Titus

Dina Titus

Beyond the Sun

Before leaving office last year, Rep. Dina Titus offered her congressional staff a parting gift: almost $155,000 in bonuses.

Titus, a Democrat who lost a tight race for re-election to Republican Joe Heck, made the payments from the annual allowance members of Congress receive for staff and office costs. The payouts almost doubled Titus’ personnel budget.

During the first three quarters of 2010, Titus spent an average of $185,000 on 17 staff salaries. The total jumped to $340,000 in the fourth quarter.

Any unspent money left in congressional office budgets — which range from $1.4 million to $2 million a year — is returned to the U.S. Treasury. Overages come out of Congress members’ pockets.

Titus’ payouts placed her 10th among 435 House members for the jump in payments to employees. The most generous members of Congress were those who, like Titus, either lost in November or retired.

For Democrats, the 21 percent increase in fourth-quarter pay was “record breaking,” said Jock Friedly, president and founder of LegiStorm, a nonpartisan group that tracks congressional salaries and compiled the bonus tallies.

Representatives leaving Congress didn’t have the same incentive to cut government spending as they did when facing voters, and many felt indebted to staff members who would soon be unemployed, Friedly said.

Titus described the payouts as “salary increases,” not bonuses. She said her staff accepted smaller checks during the first three quarters with the understanding that they would be paid more in the fourth quarter, if money remained in the office budget.

Congressional staff members received no severance pay last year, as they did in 2006, Titus said. But she conceded that had her budget been exhausted she would not have given her staff additional pay from her own pocket.

Even with year-end increases, her staff was the lowest paid of the Nevada delegation, she said. Titus said during her two years in office she returned $150,000 of her staff allocation to the Treasury — $120,000 in 2009 and $30,000 last year — or about 10 percent of her allotment.

“We were very frugal with the federal dollars,” she said.

Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley handed out $64,000 in bonuses last year, while Republican Rep. Dean Heller gave out just under $20,000, according to LegiStorm’s analysis.

Friedly said the increased pay among departing House Democrats reflects other factors.

“Members of Congress also want to make sure their staff remains loyal even after they leave office,” Friedly said. “They want to make sure they aren’t telling secrets they shouldn’t tell and that they remain part of their ongoing political network.”

Titus, who lost re-election by less than 2,000 votes, is widely expected to seek public office again. She might challenge Heck in the 3rd Congressional District or run for Nevada’s soon-to-be-created 4th Congressional District.

Generous bonuses are not unique to Democrats. In 2006, when Republicans were voted out of the House in droves, they increased fourth-quarter salary spending by 23 percent, 2 percentage points more than Democrats did last year.

Although Republicans for the most part kept bonuses low last year, retiring Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida paid staffers 120 percent more in the fourth quarter than in the first three quarters. She had the biggest spending increase of any member of Congress. But overall, Republican spending was curbed because most remained in office.

About 10 percent of House members paid six-figure bonuses to their staffs, LegiStorm found. The 96 representatives leaving Congress increased staff pay by 31 percent for a total of $6.7 million. Members who remained in office boosted employee pay by only 16 percent.

Titus’ generosity could come back to bite her. Should she seek office again, Republicans are almost certain to slam her for adding to the national deficit.

“Given the mood in the country right now, this is a story that has some resonance with voters,” Friedly said. “There has been a sentiment in the country that public employees should not be paid bonuses.”

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  1. It is alway nice to see someone so generous during the holiday season, particularly with other's money. Unemployment is 15% and she offering wonderful bonuses for loyalty.

  2. As the Republicans say, you have to pay well to attract talented people. This will give John Ensign a goal to shoot for and I'm certain he will succeed. His parents paid over $100,000 to ONE ex-staffer that had already been terminated, just a little Cash Kiss for the obedience.

  3. SunJon:

    LOL. Good one.

    It still misses the point--$155,000 is a lot of money and it is our money--meaning the public's money.

  4. You can't CHERRY PICK the info from the article and criticize Titus's spending on staffers, kiddies...

    "Even with year-end increases, her staff was the lowest paid of the Nevada delegation, she said. Titus said during her two years in office she returned $150,000 of her staff allocation to the Treasury -- $120,000 in 2009 and $30,000 last year -- or about 10 percent of her allotment."

    "We were very frugal with the federal dollars," she said.

  5. Puff piece. Turriabla, gmag39 has given you the context now can we all just move on and acknowledge there is nothing here that is remarkable?

  6. Gmag39:

    Your argument is almost the equivelent of saying Ensign was faithful every other year of his marriage and therefore we are cherry picking the facts by overlooking all the years of fidelity.

    All the talk of frugality went out the door with the $155,000.

  7. @gmag39

    You have been quiet on the education articles of late. It is almost safe to return to these articles. The readers have been trashing the NPRI, ex-NPRI crowd of late.

    T.

  8. Turrialba,
    Why not discuss how many staff Ms. Titus had, what they did, how many hours they worked, how well they did it, how much they were actually paid, and what their bonuses looked like versus people doing similar work in both the public and private sector? What is that you say? We don't have enough information to know this? Then the article and your comments are useless.

  9. Gee Mark--thanks for the advice. I really think you ought move along.

    Thank you for your enlighted view of republicans and racists in Pahrump. What is your source of information? What makes you an expert?

    Grow up dude.

  10. One is reminded of Mark Twain's comment: "America has no native criminal class, save Congress."

  11. It is wrong to characterize this as "theft". It is the normal consequence of having a "use it or lose it" budget allotment.

    The real question is should public employees receive bonuses, and if so, how much?

    Would there have been an outcry if instead of what amounts to a lump-sum payment at the end, Titus had paid a higher amount all year long that equaled the same? Would people be complaining about excessive salaries being paid?

    The budget allotment is basically a block grant.

  12. Our tax dollars at work!

    Remember this when the government wants more money from us, the tax payers. That goes for any party

  13. If Republicans were giving away taxpayer's money like this, there would be immediate calls for investigation by folks such as sunjon or mred. They would be demanding repayment, resignation and jail time. The laws need to be written so these bonuses cannot be given out and the budget allotments for such eliminated.
    The government is BROKE, yet these politicians still waste it like there's no tomorrow.
    While I'm no fan of John Ensign, one cannot compare his family members spending their own money to one giving away government (our) money.
    Bonuses are meant to reward employees when profits are up, Last I checked, the deficit is higher than ever before, and getting worse.

  14. In private business it would be called severance pay. She lost her job, they lost their jobs. Just another cheap shot at Dina Titus (D CD-4).

  15. Look at the loony leftists frothing at the mouth to protect the carpet-bagging cracker! But, to them, it's as natural as breathing - wasting tax $. Let's face it, the money was not the carpet-bagging crackers, so she couldn't care less about throwing it around. But she's just a tip of the iceberg. Both sides of the "aisle" do it and it's wrong - period!

  16. Yes John, Ensign paid his own (or his parents') money to the tart. Titus paid MY money to her staff. I didn't approve any "severance pay" to political losers. To us in the real world that work for our money and have to be accountable daily it makes a BIG difference.

  17. Lots of tough comments, more heat than light! As I recall there is already too much heat in Las Vegas - in totality it appears that the Titus bonuses were not such but rather part of a stingy salary package. Not nearly as extreme as the uber wealthy getting multi-million dollar pay outs at the end of the year so they can pay their multiple mortgages and get tax breaks as well. Now that is a good deal. And it costs the taxpayers a lot!