The beat goes on in the First Congressional District, as the two major-party candidates continue to beat up one another over relatively minor issues.
The latest television ad from Republican congressional candidate Jonathan Paton attacks Democratic congressional candidate and former congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick for office payroll spending while she was in Congress:
The assertion: "... after being voted out of office, Kirkpatrick spent lavishly on taxpayer-funded bonuses for her staff. Spent more than $100,000 of our money in her final 48 hours in office, even paid former campaign aides."
The response: "That was a final, condensed pay period. The numbers reflect pay for work and paid leave accrued prior to that period," said Jennifer Johnson, Kirkpatrick's campaign spokeswoman. They also reflect three former congressional staffers and interns loaned to the campaign, then hired back to close up congressional offices, Johnson said.
The bottom line: It is true that Kirkpatrick paid staffers more than $105,000 in their final two days in office and hired back three staff people who had worked on her political campaigns. But the increase in office spending by Kirkpatrick in the final months of the year was similar to increases at many other congressional offices, both in Arizona and around the nation.
Background, context, chronology: Kirkpatrick paid staffers $105,295 in reports covering just Jan. 1-2, 2011, after losing a bid for re-election to Republican Paul Gosar, according to reports from nonpartisan LegiStorm, an independent, nonpartisan group in Washington D.C.
LegiStorm tracks congressional salaries and trips.
-- Staffer Karen L. Wargo, listed as a "field representative," received $12,133 in those two days.
-- Chief of staff Michael Frias received $15,014.
-- Deputy District Director Carmen Maioriello-Gallus received $13,099.
-- Staffer Tracy Bouvier, listed as a caseworker for Kirkpatrick, received $12,133 for those 48 hours.
-- Staffer Judy Burns-Sulltrop, listed as a caseworker for Kirkpatrick, received $12,413.
-- Legislative director Betsy Quilligan, also on staff, received $12,663.
-- The campaign staffers hired back after Kirkpatrick lost the election were Derek Frome, Maya Rao and Carly Regina. Those three received a total of $2,433 in those two days.
LegiStorm reporter Daimon Eklund said his group hasn't looked at enough data over enough years to determine what is routine when it comes to outgoing member of Congress and pay for their staffs.
The analysis from this time covered the last two days in office only.
Further, the documents congressional offices file don't specify when "bonuses" are given -- so LegiStorm looks for increases in the last quarter of the year (above the other quarters) and considers those "bonuses."
LegiStorm found that more than one-quarter (24 out of 93) of departing members of Congress paid salaries of $50,000 or more for Jan. 1-2 of 2011.
Looking over a longer period of time in 2010, LegiStorm found the following fourth-quarter "bonuses" for Arizona's congressional delegation (in order of most to least):
-- Democrat Harry Mitchell's fourth-quarter payroll increased $87,927, or about 40 percent;
-- Republican Jeff Flake: up $61,178, or 24 percent;
-- Democrat Raul Grijalva: up $47,564, or 19 percent;
-- Kirkpatrick: up $44,120, or about 13 percent,
-- Republican Trent Franks: up $23,257, or 13 percent;
-- Republican John Shadegg: up $16,978, or 7 percent.
Bonuses by Arizona's congressional delegation didn't hold a candle to what congressmen and congresswomen in other states were distributing in 2011 and in other years.
Some increased payroll by more than $100,000 in their last quarter in office -- by some 80 or 120 percent -- LegiStorm found.
Our read: The assertion that Kirkpatrick paid $105,000 in salaries in her last two days in office is true. Also true is the assertion that former campaign staff received payments in those final two days. Looking at what other congressional offices pay in their final quarters of the years, she also has a lot of company in Washington.
Cyndy Cole can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 913-8607.