Obama Pays Women Only 78 Percent of What He Pays Men

Fred Lucas | September 18, 2008 | 5:38pm EDT
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While Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign has produced a television ad criticizing Sen. John McCain's position on equal pay for women, Obama pays his own female Senate staffers, on average, only 78 percent of what he pays male staffers.

(CNSNews.com) – While Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign has produced a television ad criticizing Sen. John McCain’s position on equal pay for women and pointing out that women in America are paid only 77 cents on the dollar compared to men, Obama pays his own female Senate staffers, on average, only 78 percent of what he pays male staffers.

Women on McCain’s staff, meanwhile, earn 24 percent more on average than women on Obama’s Senate staff.  McCain also pays his female Senate staff members a higher average salary than his male Senate staff members.

Women occupy seven of the top 10 highest-paid positions on McCain’s staff, and five of the top 10 highest-paid positions on Obama’s staff.

The numbers come from the most recent Report of the Secretary of the Senate, which includes the salaries of every member of each U.S. senator’s staff during the period of Oct. 1, 2007 through March 31, 2008.

This is the second consecutive six-month period reviewed by CNSNews.com in which McCain, an Arizona Republican, has paid women on his Senate staff a higher average salary than he pays men and Obama has paid men a higher average salary than he pays women.

The pay gap between men and women in McCain’s office closed in the most recent six-month period compared to the previous period, but the pay gap widened slightly in Obama’s office.  The CNSNews.com analysis included all staff members for each Senator—except those listed as “interns”—that were included in the Report of the Secretary of the Senate.

Gender issues have played a role in the presidential race recently as McCain picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, the first woman to be nominated for vice president by the Republican Party. This week, the National Organization for Women formally endorsed Obama for president.

In the period from October 1 through March 31, Obama paid women on his Senate staff an average annual salary of $44,953.21, which was $12,472 less than the $57,425.00 average annual salary he paid men.  Women outnumbered men on the staff 30 to 27.

McCain paid women on his Senate staff an average annual salary of $55,777.39, which was marginally higher than the average annual salary of $55,165.29 that he paid men.

In percentage terms, McCain paid female staffers 101 percent of what he paid men. Women outnumbered men on McCain’s staff, 26 to 16.

NOW President Kim Gandy did not view the pay disparity as a problem.

“It depends on what positions they’re in,” Gandy told CNSNews.com. “Certain positions are paid more than other positions. I do know quite a number of women very high up in his staff and in his campaign who are extraordinarily strong supporters of women’s rights. We don’t advocate people be hired because of their gender. We advocated people be hired and paid without regard to their gender.”

Thirteen of the 20 highest paid members of McCain’s Senate staff were women during the sixth-month reporting period. Eight of the 20 highest paid members of Obama’s Senate staff were women.

The Obama campaign ad says: “Today women work to help support their families but are paid just 77 cents for every $1 a man makes. It’s just one more thing John McCain doesn’t get about our economy.”

The 77-cents figure comes from Census Bureau statistics.  A Census Bureau fact sheet says: “The median annual earnings of women 16 or older who worked year-round full time in 2006: Women earned 77 cents for every $1 earned by men.”

Like the Census Bureau average referenced in the Obama ad, the CNSNews.com analysis is based on average annual earnings.

As of the end of March, the highest paid male on Obama’s staff was Christopher Lu, his legislative director, who earned $60,000 over the six month period, or $120,000 if adjusted annually.

The highest paid female on Obama’s Senate staff for the six-month period ending in March was Carolyn D. Mosely, an administrative manager earning $50,499.96 for the period, or $100,999.92 per year.

The highest paid member of McCain’s staff for the period was a man, Mark A. Buse, an administrative assistant whose salary if adjusted for the year would be $168,981.24. Buse began working for the McCain Senate staff on Feb. 11 this year. Through the end of March he had earned $22,222.19.

The highest paid woman on McCain’s staff is Ann D. Beggeman, the legislative director, who earned $65,298.48 for the six month period, which would be $130,596.96 for a year.

On Obama’s staff one female and one male earned six-figure salaries. On McCain’s staff two of the three people earning six figures were males.

When Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal announced her support for Obama earlier this week, she pointed to gender pay equity as an issue. Smeal would not comment on Obama’s Senate staff payroll, but said women voters should focus on the public policies of the candidates rather than other factors.

“What I do know is on the issues that affect millions of women, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which fights wage discrimination, McCain votes no,” Smeal told CNSNews.com. “We’re looking at what they’re doing to impact the lives of working women and right now. McCain has been consistently a no vote on many important issues to women.”

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, if passed, would extend the limit on how long an employee can wait before suing an employer for pay discrimination. The legislation was named after Lilly Ledbetter, who was a supervisor at Goodyear Tire & Rubber's plant in Gadsden, Ala. She sued for pay discrimination before retiring after 19 years because she had made $6,500 less per year than the lowest paid male supervisor.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out her case, saying she waited too long to file a complaint. The court said that under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, an employee must sue within 180 days of a decision regarding pay if alleged discrimination is involved. The bill sought to change the law, but Democrats could not muster the needed 60 votes to override a Republican filibuster in the Senate. Ledbetter spoke at the Democratic National Convention in August.

McCain opposed the legislation, though he was campaigning at the time of the vote. Obama voted for it.

In April, CNSNews.com reported on the previous Secretary of the Senate report, which covered the period between April 1 and Sept. 30, 2007.  In that period, Obama paid the 36 men on his Senate staff an average $55,962 and the 31 women on his staff an average of $48,729.  McCain paid the 16 men on his staff an average of $56,628.83 per year and the 30 women an average of $59,104.51 (See story: http://www.cnsnews.com/public/content/article.aspx?RsrcID=31832 .)
The information for the CNSNews.com analysis was taken from the Report of the Secretary of the Senate that covered the six month period ending March 31.
As was the case with the previous story published in April, CNSNews.com sent its analysis of the Secretary of the Senate’s payroll data to both the Obama and McCain Senate offices.  McCain Senate spokesman Robert Fischer and Obama Senate spokesman Michael Ortiz confirmed the accuracy of the information, but did not comment on the gender pay comparisons between their offices.
Because the Report of the Secretary of the Senate only covers half a year, the salaries listed for those six months were simply multiplied by two to determine the annual salary. To arrive at the annual salary for employees who only worked for part of the six months, CNSNews.com divided the total amount they were paid by the number of days they were employed then multiplied that number by 365.

Correction: In an initial posting of this story, it said that that the average annual male salary in Sen. Barack Obama's office was $10,472 more than the average annual female salary, in fact the average annual male salary in Obama's office was $12,472 more than the average annual female salary.

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