Solidarity dollars

Al Kamen
Columnist April 25, 2013

The Sequester Solidarity Train is chugging along, with most Cabinet members pledging to donate a chunk of their pay in solidarity with federal workers being furloughed.

When last we checked, earlier this month, here’s the list of all those who pledged to donate: President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Attorney General Eric Holder, Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary Shaun Donovan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and acting Environmental Protection Agency chief Bob Perciasepe.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Since then, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew have hopped on board. And on Wednesday morning an Interior Department spokesman told us that the new secretary there, Sally Jewell (who probably hasn’t gotten a paycheck yet), is along for the ride as well.

Vice President Biden will donate if any of his 60 or so staff are furloughed, but none have been so far.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is not going to get hit by furloughs, but we hear that Secretary Eric Shinseki might donate anyway. No Health and Human Services or Education Department employees have been furloughed, but Secretaries Kathleen Sebelius and Arne Duncan will consider donations if furloughs occur.


Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, testifying on Capitol Hill earlier this month at the hearing on her nomination. (Cliff Owen/AP)

Two departing Cabinet members — acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood — and acting Labor Secretary Seth Harris have not signed on, though employees at those agencies are getting furloughed.

Perks, perks, perks

Members of Congress get an annual salary of $174,000 a year. No big-law-firm or Wall Street bucks by any means, but not too shabby.

And that doesn’t include some fine free travel, sometimes paid for by taxpayers — though House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) banned such travel in February — and sometimes paid for by think tanks and “public policy” groups.

We wrote earlier this month about a political kerfuffle surrounding a fine 12-day trip to India by a small congressional delegation (codel) led by Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.). (Seems the delegation invited the head of the Indian state of Gujarat to visit the United States — though he has been barred from the country since 2005 because of alleged human rights violations.)

The trip, which included meetings with business, government and opposition leaders as well as daily tours of museums, memorials, palaces and substantial free time, was paid for by the Chicago-based National Indian American Public Policy Institute. (NIAPPI)

Schock took two staffers— legislative director Mark Roman and chief of staff Steven Shearer — and GOP Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) and Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.) took their spouses.

Now, if you and your spouse were to fly business class over there, that would set you back more than $7,000 apiece, based on disclosure forms filed by the members this week. Lodging and meals ran about $3,000 to $4,000 a person (less for McMorris Rodgers because the couple was there only five days) — though many meals were hosted by local organizations over there.

You get educated by NIAPPI, you tour, you schmooze, you dine, you take photos, and it’s all part of the job. So maybe it’s not so bad to be a House member.

One proud Republican

Mystery solved. The Loop enlisted readers’ help in figuring out whose car was tooling around town with plates that read “GOP SPIN.”

We wondered which Republican PR type was so boldly announcing the oft-reviled practices of the profession, and in response to our query, the car’s owner herself stepped forward.

Meet Tara Bradshaw. She lives in the metro area and has had the plates for at least a dozen years, she tells us, dating from when she was, indeed, a GOP spokeswoman, at the Senate Finance Committee and for the Treasury Department in the administration of President George W. Bush.

Now she works in government affairs, and though her job requires far less spinning these days, she simply kept the plates. “I’m surprised,” she said, about the Loop’s interest in her tags. “Nobody ever seems to notice them.”

Only in Washington . . .

A literary bent

The Loop’s favorite quote of the day: “Sometimes, the law’s an ass.”

That was Federal Election Commission Chairman Ellen Weintraub going Dickensian after the FEC ruled that gay couples can’t make joint political contributions from individual accounts, the way married couples can. As reported by our colleague Juliet Eilperin, Weintraub and other commissioners expressed regret about the ruling, saying their “hands were tied” because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The reference apparently comes from “Oliver Twist,” in which a character, informed that “the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction,” replies that “if the law supposes that, the law is a ass — a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor.”

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @ InTheLoopWP.

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