By Phil Corso
Bayside’s departing congressman left office with a generous farewell for his staffers: nearly doubling their pay.
Former U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman handed out hefty bonuses to his staff members at the end of last year just as he was preparing to leave office, making way for his successor, Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), according to financial disclosure database LegiStorm.
The departing official used government money to almost double his staff’s pay for the final quarter of 2012 between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31. It was the most generous departing pay raise offered by a member of Congress last year, according to the staff salaries data tracked by the website.
What made the final bonuses unique for Ackerman specifically was the sheer amount in his final months as a congressman.
Records showed total salary expenditures would spike in the final quarter of each year in Ackerman’s office, with staffers receiving some extra pay in the process. But the biggest payday for his 15 staffers came at the end of the congressman’s final quarter in office, showing $401,072 compared to the previous quarter’s $217,353 in compensation expenditures.
Ackerman did not return calls seeking comment by press time.
The government money doled out to staffers comes from a set allowance for all expenses throughout the course of a year. Any unused money eventually gets returned to the U.S. Treasury.
A LegiStorm report showed Ackerman to be the most generous giver of year-end bonuses, which come from government funds. He was also the only Democrat out of the Top 10 officials for the 113th Congress on the list, the site said.
Just behind Ackerman in the bonus department was Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who bumped up his staff’s salaries 98.3 percent in his final quarter in office before vacating his seat, LegiStorm reported.
The trend came as somewhat expected, according to Daimon Eklund, of LegiStorm.
“Election years tend to see larger bonus numbers, as departing members reward staff who will soon be looking for new jobs,” Eklund said in a comment on the site. “The party losing more members tends to have higher bonuses.”
That was what likely contributed to House Republicans dominating the list of payoffs by the end of 2012, according to LegiStorm.
LegiStorm, originally launched in 2006, compiles its data through secretary of the U.S. Senate and clerk of the House of Representatives reports, published every six and three months.
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.