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Staffers Strike Gold in Campaign Seasons

Some Earn Nearly as Much as Members

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor paid the person who runs his PAC almost as much as Cantor receives in Congressional salary.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor may have campaigned on cutting spending, but a couple of his campaign staffers were among the highest-paid by campaigns, parties and political action committees during the 2010 election cycle. 

The Virginia Republican doled out almost as much to the person who runs his political action committee as he received through his own Congressional paychecks over the two-year period, according to a CQ MoneyLine study of campaign finance records. 

Karrie Harris Cohen was the highest-paid of all campaign employees during the last election cycle, receiving at least $364,000 as the executive director of Cantor’s Every Republican Is Crucial PAC. The salary is just under the $387,000 Cantor earned in Congressional salary during the same period.

Cohen is one of about 150 committee staffers who received more than $100,000 from 2009 to 2010 in expenditures listed as “payroll” or “salary,” according to electronically filed disbursements. The analysis of Federal Election Commission records did not include spending listed as “consulting” or money spent by Senatorial committees, which do not file electronically.

Cantor’s PAC did very well during the cycle, raising more than $4.4 million. These funds allowed him to distribute $1.8 million to more than 400 fellow GOP candidates and party committees. His re-election campaign was also among the top five in receipts among House candidates during the 2010 election cycle even though he did not face a tough race. His nearly $6 million in donations may account for why another staffer, Jennifer Jones, was paid at least $258,000 by Cantor for Congress.

Others with significant expenditures on salaries include the campaign and PAC of seven-term Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) which paid its manager, Renee Aschoff, more than $282,000, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which paid Executive Director Jonathan Vogel $257,000 during a campaign when it lost 63 seats.

During a two-year period, MoveOn.org Political Action paid more than $282,000 to Executive Director Justin Ruben, which the organization said was “roughly the median for the non-profit sector based on a salary survey.”

Doug Gordon, a spokesman for the liberal group, objected to being measured against other PACs, campaigns or party committees, saying the comparison is “completely misleading.” 

“Among other things, Justin is one of the only ED’s in politics who spends both years of the two-year cycle working full time on a PAC payroll, without any other source of income,” Gordon wrote in an e-mail. “Most of the people you’d be comparing him to spend a fraction of that period being paid by political organizations.”

Someone looking to get paid well as a political operative might have done well to sign on with the Republican National Committee during the 2010 election cycle. The RNC had more staffers paid $100,000 or more during the two-year period than any other campaign, party or PAC.

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