Yesterday we noted that a person identified as Sen. Stevens (R-AK) ‘bookkeeper’ had testified before a federal grand jury investigating Stevens. Later we learned that this ‘bookkeeper’ was also a senate staffer who was apparently managing Stevens’ personal finances.
Now, whenever we get into a situation like this it is always helpful to know not just what the rules are and what is (by whatever standard) appropriate, but also what the common practices are. In this case, I think it’s probably not that uncommon for certain congressional staffers to do the occasional task that is probably personal in nature. And I would not be at all surprised if some of the older and long-serving members of the House and Senate are still operating by ‘old school’ rules in which one or two staffers help the member out a lot with personal stuff. That’s not saying it’s okay. I think it’s just important context. I think if you look at some members that have been there since like the 60s or even 70s you’ll probably find some workplace norms that wouldn’t stand a lot of scrutiny today.
One other point is worth noting. There are some members who have a staffer who they also pay personally because some of their work bleeds into personal stuff.
So with all that context, let’s look at Sen. Stevens and staffer Barbara Flanders. Roll Call has a story on this in today’s paper. The reporter doesn’t say so explicitly. But the article suggests that not only does Flanders do Stevens’ bookkeeping but that she may also not have any actual senate duties. In addition, her job title at the Commerce Committee, ‘financial clerk’, doesn’t exist anywhere else in the senate.
And what else probably won’t surprise you, she makes a pretty decent salary — about a $150,000 per annum.
I don’t think it was terribly surprising to people on the hill that Stevens might have a staffer who helped him make sure his bills got paid on time and his check book stayed balanced. But if it’s true that Flanders actually had no senate duties, I think that’s going to be another real problem for Stevens.