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Ethics panel increases salary threshold for House staffer disclosures

Staffers making $127,914 or more also face restrictions on income earned outside of congressional duties

Congress is due to return from August recess on Sept. 9.  (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Congress is due to return from August recess on Sept. 9.  (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House Ethics Committee has increased the salary threshold that subjects staffers to the same disclosure requirements and employment restrictions as members of Congress, according to guidance the panel released Thursday.

House employees who make $127,914 or more for at least 60 days during 2019 will need to file a financial disclosure statement on or before May 15, 2020. That’s an increase of $1,766 from the previous year.

Staffers who meet the criteria for this “senior staff rate” for more than 90 days are subject to limits on the amount of money they can make outside of their congressional duties, which has been set at $28,440.

Those in the House paid at the senior staff rate are required to notify the Ethics Committee within three business days after they start any negotiation or agreement for future employment with a private entity. They also have to recuse themselves when there is a conflict of interest or an appearance of such a conflict with the private entity and must notify the committee in writing of the recusal.

The guidance comes just a day after the Office of Congressional Ethics made public a report that found Arizona Rep. David Schweikert’s former chief of staff made impermissible contributions to his boss and received income beyond the House’s outside earned income limit for his position. Schweikert is currently under an Ethics Committee investigation. 

The Ethics guidance also notes that federal laws prohibit staff from making campaign contributions to their employing members and that outlays are contributions, even if they are reimbursed.

In addition to receiving an annual salary of $168,411 working for Schweikert as his chief of staff, Richard Oliver Schwab Jr. also earned income from political consulting and fundraising activities he performed on behalf of campaign entities affiliated with his boss, the OCE found. The report also showed that in 2014, Schwab’s political consulting company, Chartwell, was paid $57,950, well over the outside earned income limit of $26,955. The OCE report determined that Schwab was likely reimbursed for at least $16,886 in personal outlays made on behalf of Schweikert’s campaign committees.

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