Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-N.Y.) gave temporary pay raises from congressional funds to three staff aids who worked for her re-election last year. The raises were rescinded after the campaign work ended.
House rules forbid the use of appropriated funds to pay for campaign work. Chisholm's top staff aide, Carolyn J. Smith, denies the raises were given specifically for that reason.
Instead, Smith said the pay was boosted to compensate staff aides whose office workloads coincidentally increased during last year's campaign. The raises were for extra congressional work only, she said.
However, Simth's contention is disputed by O'Dell Lewis, who was dropped from Chisholm's staff last February because of what the congresswoman called a "staff retrenchment." Lewis claims his temporary raise - from an annual rate of $17,296.95 to $18,872.14 - was given to cover his expenses for campaigning for Chisholm during the New York Democratic primary last summer.
Lewis said he originally was supposed to be paid for his campaign expenses through cash advances drawn from the Chisholm campaign fund. But such advances were not available during the months of August and September when he campaigned for Chisholm in Brooklyn, he said.
"So Carolyn Smith said she would have to raise my salary to cover my expenses . . . I wasn't sure about doing that at first because I would have to pay taxes on the pay increase. But she said she would work it out," Lewis said.
Lewis said he paid the taxes. His salary dropped back to the annual pay rate of $17,296 after he completed his campaign work, according to House payroll records.
Smith acknowledged she raised Lewis' House salary while he was working in Brooklyn. But she denies the raise was given to cover his campaign expenses.
"While he was up there in Brooklyn, he carried on congressional work in the Brooklyn office," she said. "He was only supposed to be involved in campaign work on offhours. I only increased his salary twice because he had a heavy workload," she said. Smith said Lewis was reimbursed from campaign funds for campaign related expenses.
However, according to Federal Election Commission records, the only campaign fund reimbursement Lewis received was $175 for setting up a breakfast meeting of Chisholm supporters.
Other Chisholm staffers whose salaries were raised during the campaign and reduced afterward are Helen C. Butler, a grant specialist, and the congresswoman's press secretary, Colleen A. O'Connor.
Bulter's annual pay rate went from $15,135.46 before the campaign to $18,991.36 during the campaign and dropped to $16,000 afterwards. O'Connor's annual pay rate went from $14,833.86 before the election to $17,083.86 during the campaign and dropped to $16,772.80 afterwards, according to House records.
Smith said neither Bulter nor O'Conner went to New York sepicifically to campaign. Instead, both spent much time in Washington "digging up information to answer charges" brought by Chisholm's primary opponent, New York City Councilman Samuel D. Wright, she said.
"Our opposition was trying to say that Mrs. Chisholm was not bringing [federal] money into the community," Smith said. "To disprove those charges, we had to dig. Helen Butler is Mrs. Chisholm's grant specialist. She was in and out of HEW and HUD, working nights, sometimes to midnight digging up information. Mrs. Chisholm felt she deserved something extra for her work," Smith said.
O'Conner worked in a similar capacity and was given a raise in compensation for her efforts, Smith said, insisting that the raises were proper.
"They weren't out there knocking on doors and meeting people and doing that kind of thing," she said, "They just had extra work to do. Everybody has extra work to do during campaign time," she said.