Update: After the Polk County GOP tried to pull this video off the Internet, we reposted it here.
At a town hall meeting in Polk County, Wisconsin earlier this year, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) was asked whether he’d vote to cut his $174,000 annual salary. Duffy sort of hedged, and went on to talk about how $174,000 really isn’t that much for his family of seven to live on. Then he went on to say he supports cutting compensation for all public employees, along the lines of what Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has proposed for the Badger State.
The whole thing was caught on tape, and it was posted to the Polk County GOP’s blog, along with several other clips from the town hall. Then just that clip where Duffy talks about his salary was taken down and removed from the internet by the county party because, an official said, the YouTube clip “was being republished without our consent.”Here’s the clip, obtained by TPM:
Note: see a clip of the video, and an explanation of why it’s not here anymore, in this post.
Here’s what Duffy says about his salary:
I can guarantee you, or most of you, I guarantee that I have more debt than all of you. With 6 kids, I still pay off my student loans. I still pay my mortgage. I drive a used minivan. If you think I’m living high on the hog, I’ve got one paycheck. So I struggle to meet my bills right now. Would it be easier for me if I get more paychecks? Maybe, but at this point I’m not living high on the hog.
Duffy also said that he pays more in health care costs and retirement savings than he did when he was a district attorney before he ran for Congress. That said, Duffy said he’d support the idea of “public employees across the board” taking a compensation cut.
“Let’s all join hands together and say ‘I’ll take a pay decrease, absolutely,” Duffy said.
A Duffy spokesperson told TPM that Democrats are trying to make the salary line into a partisan shot.
“Congressman Duffy is committed to working with his colleagues in the House to face these challenges head on, not score cheap political points,” Duffy spokesperson Daniel Son said. “Wisconsin’s working families don’t need partisan Democrats in Washington weighing in on the economic hardship they continue to face, especially with a misleading attack like this that Congressman Duffy’s constituents know to be false.”
Like all House members, Duffy makes $174,000 in taxpayer-funded salary every year. The Speaker makes a lot more ($223,500) and the party leaders and president pro tempore of the Senate make a bit more ($193,400.)
All of them make way more than most people in Polk County, Wisconsin do. The median household income there was $50,520 in 2008, according to Census data.
Whether or not Duffy is rich is a matter for debate. But that’s apparently not a debate the Polk County GOP wanted to have, at least not on the wider Internet. Here’s a screenshot of what the page containing the video looked like on Monday. Today, the video is gone.
“The Polk County Republican Party’s blog & website is provided for the constituents in our district and when it became apparent that the content on our website was being republished without our consent, I decided to take it down,” the county party’s “Web & PR Guy” told TPM in an email that lacked a name. “All content and video is copyright protected by the Polk County Republican Party and may not be used without written consent.”
County party Chair Sandy Fretwell told TPM in an interview he had no idea why the video was taken down, but put the aforementioned IT guy in touch with us to explain it. Fretwell said he hadn’t seen the video clip on the site, but said Duffy’s town hall was held “about a month ago” and he was in attendance.
“I believe he was correct,” Fretwell said when asked to respond to Duffy’s line about not living “high on the hog” on his $174,000/year. “What he was mentioning was he has a mortgage just like everyone else…basically, that was the pay that got set and is afforded to all members of Congress.”
The chair called Duffy’s pay “a good salary” and acknowledged it’s on “the upper end of things” for Duffy’s district, but said that’s not really a fact worth talking about.
“I don’t know what your point is when you compare one legislator’s salary to other legislators,” he said. “Everyone across all 535 members and senators, they get paid equally.”
Fretwell chastised the questioner for asking Duffy to on the spot congressional salaries he didn’t vote for. He said that in his book, $174,000 a year was a reasonable salary for Duffy.
“Congressmen represent us, they have a certain amount of responsibility,” he said. “Given compensation across the country, sure it’s more than many people make but then again their responsibility is probably greater than many people’s responsibility.”
Ed. Note: This post has been updated from the original.