The bad job interview...debunking the myth, the legend...using facts
As a Congressional Candidate and 20+ year federal employee
with key experiences in government operations; my skin began to crawl regarding a 10 point plan to reform Congress on KUSI News by Carl DeMaio. I know the facts not the myth. In theory the candidate stated, just like with his gas tax (Reform California), that he will "reform" our state during attempts to gain funding or now "reform Congress". Yet DeMaio's lack of knowledge and expertise in government operations is very telling when he brandishes about statements that we should take away "benefits" from Congress.
Social Media creates an opportunity to find sound bites of information without knowing the entire facts. Some sound bites may sound great on the surface; yet, the reality is that digging deeper into an issue by voters is very critical when hiring. I always use laws and regulations to back up what I say. This brings us to Carl DeMaio's recent "10 Point Plan" to hold Congress accountable.
It is unfortunate that a candidate creates “plans” to suit a narrative while not doing proper due diligence legal research and actually living in the community. This leads to a region’s potential misunderstandings of law and intent as someone votes for a person because "they sound good", "are polished" (slick?), or are saying what the candidate believes a person wants to hear.
In my conversations with the 50th, I continually speak about resolving key issues based upon laws and regulations; not slick myths. If elected to Congress, I plan to work key community issues through my desired potential committee assignments on the House Armed Services Committee, Government Oversight Committee (Fraud & Abuse), and the House Veterans Affairs Committee. These are the key areas where my knowledge and expertise will benefit our community. Working to keep jobs and build economic opportunity while continuing to serve the military and veteran communities.
Debunking the Congressional Employment Mystery.
Let's debunk the DeMaio myths using federal laws and regulations along with my actual conversation on January 12, 2020 with the Chief Administrator's Office at the Capitol (the HR department). Key to this are the laws that guide congressional policy for Members and their staff under Title 2 and the Office of Personnel Management regulations. The myth and the legend; let's break it down:
I was at the California Fish Grill El Cajon eating my delicious poke dinner last night and got into a discussion with a voter about reforming Congress. The community member said "yeah - take away their retirement benefits and other stuff". I took the time to break down the facts to the potential constituent:
Starting Salary - $178,000; paid on the first of the month ($14,833.33)
Mandatory deductions from monthly salary:
Required to have a place to live in DC: $1200-2500 per month (no housing allowance)
Required to have a home in California: $2000+ per month
Utilities, food and incidentals - $600-700 per month based upon the required two residences (more if you have a family)
Health Insurance - Under Affordable Care Act; not free.
Pension - 4.4% or close to $600.00 a month plus additional contributions (mandatory government 401K like product)
Federal and State Taxes: Approximately $58,000 a year or $5,000 per month in taxes (social security, Medicare and other required taxes).
The total earned by a Congressional Representative after taxes and benefit deductions is approximately $4,083.00 per month or approximately $48,396 per year that you can actually pocket. Variations in taxes paid are based upon allowable deductions. Congressional Representative make less than $92.00 per hour; far less than a corporate executive. Congressional Representative are "salaried" and do not collect overtime even when they work 50-100 hours a week during active sessions.
The work requires that you participate in Congressional Hearings, Committees, and Subcommittees that are based upon the Country's need. At the end of the discussion he asked for my website and name. Change is accomplished one person at a time.
Misconception 1 by DeMaio: Take away pensions
Pensions for Members of Congress, just like typical personnel issues, are managed by the Office of Personnel Management - known as the Thrift Savings Plan. Under federal regulations, you cannot currently take away pensions from federal employees.
IMAGINE THIS: You have worked for 20 years for a firm and they suddenly take away your retirement benefit. How would you feel? You toil away to do the best job you can do, and someone creates a law that swipes your pension leaving you to work for just a salary. Congressional pensions are managed again by the Office of Personnel Management based upon number of years of service, amount contributed under federal pension laws, being vested and the position you held in Congress. In this example, you would have to find another way to cover retirement if you elected DeMaio to office. Realistically, the likelihood of 535 federal employees agreeing to create legislation that would cause them to lose their pensions is realistically slim to none.
DeMaio makes great soundbites; yet, the reality is seeking attention by creating yet another "10 point plan" does not make him fit to be a Congressional Representative. Rather he is catering to what he believes the 50th District voters want to hear. Let's focus on fact not a myth.
Misconception 2: Office of the Physician (OAP).
DeMaio complained about the OAP; that there was a medical office on site at the Capitol. I believe he hinted that it was free service. According to the Chief Administrator's Office at the Capitol these are the facts:
1. Congressional members pay a voluntary fee of $626.89 per year to be able to use the facility. You don't pay; you get no service from the OAP. The fee is in addition to health care premiums managed by Office of Personnel Management through the Affordable Care Act.
2. Congressional members are provided short term medical care and are required to use their primary healthcare for major longer term medical issues.
3. The OAP is set up to provide emergency care to Congressional Members and their staff of approximately 2,000 employees. An example of this would be if there were a shooting or other incident at Congress, i.e. The Capitol building was on lock down, and Congressional Members and staff could not leave -- medical care would be provided to all members under the voluntary fee.
The most alarming information is that DeMaio does not understand the laws surrounding veteran benefits. Under Title 38 and other Veterans Administration laws; only Veterans who have served honorably qualify for healthcare at the VA. DeMaio stated in his KUSI report that Congressional Members should be shifted to the Veterans Administration. This is a violation of the current laws. DeMaio's suggestion would overburden a system designed to care for Veterans not Congressional Members.
This shows a lack of understanding of the legal requirements to obtain services under Title 38 USC (benefits) and other regulations through the VA. Healthcare at the VA is for veterans not Members of Congress who don't meet regulatory requirements to obtain VA services. Basically, DeMaio is suggesting that the already crowded VA healthcare system be crowded again with more people who are not actually entitled to a benefit unless they have served. I have served and have VA healthcare.
Misconception 3: DeMaio's No Budget, No Pay Rule.
DeMaio’s No Budget, No Pay rule would violate the current Federal Employment Laws under the Office of Personnel Management. In theory it sounds interesting; yet, if you work then you should get paid. One of the key reasons Congress has not passed a budget at times is based upon Republican and Democrats fighting for position within Congress pushing their own party’s agenda; not the will of the people. Again, stopping the partisan politics would stop the need for a no pay rule.
Misconception 4: DeMaio - Full Transparency of all Congressional Records.
DeMaio states “full transparency of all Congressional records”. Under federal government physical and operational security (OPSEC) rules “all Congressional records” indicates classified documents as Congress has classified information that is discussed based upon national security. Under a Freedom of Information Act process, the documents would be highly redacted and may need to be declassified for issues of National Security; especially when the Director of the National Security Agency, National Security Agency, and other key federal agencies are involved. The fact is that if a Member creates an authentic and transparent community relationship then there will be a reduction in the need for non-classified “full transparency” through exceptional communication and development of trust.
Misconception 5: Voting by remote Town Halls in Districts - a logistical nightmare.
My first questions are: Do we have a facility in the district that will hold 411,000+ constituents? Or how many facilities will we need to verify that a community member is eligible to vote? Or how do we verify that a community member online is who they say they are? So many variations that will lead to inaccurate results. A spouse or partner can impersonate someone online; you just need a username and password. Who will pay for the 535 minimum locations required for his suggestion (435 Congressional Representatives and 100 Senators)? Logistically and financially this is a nightmare when you factor in the nationwide costs of at least 535 video feeds, 535 community locations, and other high costs required to operate this type of program. There are also cybersecurity issues with the safety and security of the Congressional vote.
Using the internet for our proposed outreach plans does not include taking 411,000 voters to a single town meeting. Rather, as a Member of Congress, I would be at home to meet the required schedule and then some. This is my commitment is to my friends and neighbors in the 50th.
DeMaio's plan as usual is not well thought out. As your Congressional Representative, I would be entrusted by the community to have open and clear communication continually like we do with our supporters. The actual federal job description that Congressional Members accepts states that we work as representatives for the 50th; not a special interest or a firm that deposits a lot of money into a campaign political action committee.
For equal voting it means that all registered voters in the district would be able to gather in one place. Would only key DeMaio supporters be invited to the physical townhall? About 100-200 out of the 411,000? This proposed process is ripe for fraud, waste, and abuse based upon present federal regulations and laws. With busy voters' schedules who would actually show up to the physical townhall meeting site? The process he mentioned would create inequity in how the message and voting would take place and not decrease costs to the government.
Campaign Finance Reform.
DeMaio proposes new campaign finance reform rules to curb special interest contributions and expands audits of campaign spending by politicians. Yet is he being honest with the 50th District?
Carl DeMaio, as explained by Senator Jones in a Valley RoadRunner article and research by my firm’s staff, has at least two political action committees each that has a “special interest”. According to Senator Jones’ statement that was verified by my staff; DeMaio swaps money between the Political Action Committees. It would take a forensic accountant to unfurl all of this; yet, the issue seems to be of the “pot calling the kettle black”. Follow the money and the story will be told is one of my favorite sayings. The Federal Elections Committee has the information. Not making an accusation; rather, the information is from his own website(s) (and quarterly FEC campaign finance filings) according to Senator Jones' own the statement provided to the Valley Roadrunner and our team’s research.
Overall, there is more based upon his interview that is illogical and not consistent with best practices. Our campaign’s point is that anyone who doesn’t understand Federal Government Operations will get lost in Congress. I already have the key connections in Defense and other agencies to create change for our communities.
The position of Congress requires a serious job interview with the candidates, just like any other job, and a tremendous amount of government operations experience. This is after all a Federal Employment position to represent the community – my friends and family - to hire myself and campaign for the job. Our campaign hopes that each 50th District voter will follow up with research – actually take the time to verify the statements made by candidates.