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RI’s Highest Paid Congressional Staffers

Monday, September 05, 2011


At least 13 staffers for Rhode Island’s four-member Congressional Delegation are on pace to make six-figure salaries in 2011, a GoLocalProv review of Congressional finances shows.

The numbers for Rhode Island’s highest paid Congressional employees, which are based on the six-month salaries in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, fall in line with the income of most staffers with similar job titles throughout Congress.

The $100,000 gigs come at a time where salaries are on the rise for staffers throughout Washington. A 2010 Politico report showed that nearly 2,000 House staffers made at least six-figures, with over 40 clearing $170,000.

Still, working in government doesn’t necessarily payoff for everyone. Many junior staffers tend to find themselves in $30,000 range while working well-over 40 hours per week. And while the opportunity to make a relatively healthy living is present for Congressional staffers, the turnover rates (2.5 years on average in the Senate, 1.5 in the House) suggests the majority of workers aren’t getting rich on Washington salaries.

Highest Paid: Reed’s Staffers

Just as in many other fields, seniority is one of the best ways to make more money in Washington, as Rhode Island’s top salaries show. Senator Jack Reed is the senior member of the Ocean State’s Congressional Delegation and three of the group’s five highest-paid staffers come from his office.

Reed’s longtime Chief of Staff, Raymond Simone, pulled in $84,729.48 over a six month period spanning from October 2010 through March 2011. As Chief of Staff, Simone is essentially Reed’s top advisor, directing the majority of decisions made in Washington.

Reed’s Administrative Assistant, Neil Campbell, is the second highest-paid staffer in Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation. Campbell, who has been working with Reed since he was a State Senator over two decades ago, made $84,499.92 over six months.

The Senator’s Legislative Director, Elyse R. Wasch, checked in as the fifth-highest paid staffer at $64,012.44.

Top Level Staffers Only

Reaching a six-figure salary in Congress generally means having a top-level job, GoLocalProv’s report shows. The majority of staffers on the highest-paid list are Chiefs of Staff, State Directors and Legislative Directors

In fact, three of the four highest-paid members of the group are the Chiefs of Staff for Reed, Senator Whitehouse and Congressman James Langevin. Christopher Scott Fay, a longtime staffer for the late Senator Ted Kennedy is Congressman David Cicilline’s Chief of Staff and he made $59,333.33 in his first six months on the job.

The State Directors are the people who run the operation back home, setting up meet and greets, town hall forums and also serving as the liaison between state lawmakers and the member of Congress. The Legislative Director sets and helps pursue the Congressman’s political agenda in Washington.

GoLocalProv’s report shows that the most visible member of any Congressional staff office, the press secretary, tends to make significantly less than other staffers. Only Reed’s longtime communications staffer, Howard (Chip) K. Unruh, makes the list of highest-paid staffers.

Turnover In Cicilline’s Office

Despite the traditionally high turnover rates among staffers in Congress, Rhode Island’s highest paid employees appear to have been rewarded for their loyalty. Most have been with their boss for a period of years or in some cases, decades.

For Cicilline, who is serving his first term as a Representative, staff turnover has made the news in recent months. District Director Alix Ogden, a member of Cicilline’s staff dating back to his time as Mayor of Providence, and Communications Director Jessica Kershaw have each resigned this summer. Kershaw is going back to her home state of Ohio to work on President Obama’s reelection campaign.

According to Press Assistant Raymonde Charles, two other staffers have also left the Congressman’s office.

“Since coming into office, only two other members, besides Jessica Kershaw and Alix Ogden, of Congressman Cicilline’s staff have left in order to pursue other personal and professional opportunities. Brian Monterio left to be Director of Public Affairs for Liberty Mutual Group. Russel Yavner, a former staffer of Congressman Kennedy’s, left to attend Harvard Law School,” she said.



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