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Congressional staffers get their college loans paid by taxpayers


Our Congressman doubted it, but it's going on right in his office



butterfield
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Rep. G. K. Butterfield, D-NC1
September 14, 2010
UPDATE BELOW

While millions of American college students struggle to find a job to be able to pay back their student loans, we have learned that if they can find a job working in Congress they can dump their loan payments on the taxpayers. You're not going to believe that our Congressman, Rep. G. K. Butterfield, did not know this was going on even in his very own office. But it's true.

Back in August, while being interviewed on another subject, Dick Morris mentioned that "congressional staffers get their student loans written off." We couldn't believe that. So we contacted Rep. G. K. Butterfield's press person, Ken Willis, and asked him if it was true that student loan writeoffs were a fringe benefit of staffers and what other benefits staffers receive. We heard nothing in response for over a week, so we sent a second request. Before Mr. Willis responded, while Rep. G. K. Butterfield was in town Saturday (9-11-10) we asked our reporter covering his visit to check with Congressman Butterfield about the issue.

Mr. Butterfield's response was quick and to the point. He replied: "I've never heard anything about that and doubt seriously that it could be true. I have heard that some of them have gotten in trouble for not paying their taxes, but I don't know anything for sure on that."

Then on Monday, Rep. Butterfield's press contact responded to our second inquiry and here is what he replied:
Mr. Morris is incorrect. Congressional staffers, like all people who have student loans, must repay those loan.(sic) However, the Committee on House Administration did establish the Student Loan Repayment Program to provide House employing offices an additional tool with which to recruit and retain qualified staff in the service of the House. In general, the program enables participating House employing offices to authorize repayment of qualifying student loans on behalf of eligible employees who agree in writing to remain in their employment for a period of one year. Some offices offer this as a benefit, others do not. Under the program, House offices are allowed to use up to 3.5 percent of the average Member's Representational Allowance for all Member offices. Individual participants can receive no more than $833 per month in benefits and no more than $60,000 over their lifetime. The benefit is limited to the staff member only their children are not eligible.

I am not aware of an itemization of benefits for congressional staffers. I suggest contacting the House Office of Payroll and Benefits at (202) 225-1435. They are open 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday Friday.
Then we asked who in Rep. Butterfield's office was having their student loan paid for them and how much it was costing and here is the reply we received: "Congressman Butterfield's office does participate but the details are a matter of personnel we are not willing to share. "

We also contacted the House Office of Payroll. We got put on hold three times with no one coming back on the line. Finally we talked to a nice gentleman and asked for a listing of all of the House staffers from the North Carolina delegation who are participating in the Student Loan Repayment Program. We were told that such information was not immediately available but that they would compile it and email it to us. We have not yet heard from that inquiry but we will let you know what we do learn.

For a more detailed report on Rep. Butterfield's visit to Little Washington, click here.

UPDATE 9-15-10

After we posted the above article Mr. Butterfield's press person, Ken Lewis, sent us this reponse:
"Congressman Butterfield's reaction to your piece regarding the student loan repayment program follows. I hope you will consider adding it to your story.

Congressman G. K. Butterfield on the Beaufort Observer's "Congressional staffers get their college loans paid by taxpayers:"

While I strongly support the freedom of the press, it is deeply disappointing when a publication purposefully and carelessly misconstrues the facts. In this case, the Beaufort Observer saw fit to ask one question only to replace it with another when it came time for publication.

A Beaufort Observer reporter recently asked me whether "congressional staffers get their student loans written off" as falsely alleged by Dick Morris during a television appearance. To which I responded that I had never heard about such a thing and that I doubted that it could be possible.

Unfortunately, the Beaufort Observer saw fit to make the illogical jump that I was unaware of an optional student loan repayment program widely used among congressional offices. The facts and the assertions of Mr. Morris and the Beaufort Observer that congressional staffers do not have to repay student loans stand in stark contrast.

The student loan repayment program was established to provide House offices with an additional tool to recruit and retain qualified staff. The loans eligible for this program must meet all of these requirements: (1) they must be federal student loans private loans are ineligible; (2) the loans must be made in the name of the employee not in the name of a parent, spouse, ect.; (3) the loan must be active and require payment employee may not be in school, in deferment, grace or forbearance; and, (4) the employee must have a current principal balance there are no payment for loans already paid in full.

The Beaufort Observer also failed to note that this benefit is not limited to Congress most federal agencies offer a similar benefit as a means of recruiting, retaining and honoring a world-class workforce to serve the American people. Under the law, any employee of a federal agency is eligible, except for certain appointed and civil service-exempt employees. There are also a wide variety of other student loan repayment programs raging (sic) from teachers to nurses to the armed services.

In order to best serve the community, I would urge the Beaufort Observer to strive for greater journalistic excellence. Single-source stories that purposefully twist the facts may provide an easy avenue for attack, but they fail to serve our community."


Editor's response: We regret that Congressman Butterfield did not just tell us about the Student Loan Program in his office when we first asked. Had he done so we would not have made the "illogical jump" to conclude that he didn't know about it. Mr. Butterfield may want to parse the meaning of the words ("written off"), but the question was simple, essentially whether Congressional staff have to repay their student loans. We wish he had simply explained the program when we asked. If he had wished to qualify his answer by splitting hairs with a choice of verbs he had every chance to make such a distinction. He did not do so. He never mentioned what he refers to in this response above. Essentially the initial question was "who pays?" His verbal response could only have been interpreted as "the student/staff person."

But then the written details came 48 hours later from his staff. And it was a very different answer. Come to find out there is a very complex program that results in the taxpayer paying for the student loans, at least for those participating in "the program."

So we simply asked for some details—mind you, before we published anything. Who, how many, how much etc. We got a flat refusal to provide what we assume is public information. Now we learn that the taxpayer picks up many more student loan payments than was first indicated. Reporters know the game. It's called the "run-around."

So that gets us to the real point in all this. Is it reasonable for the taxpayers to pay for these student loans? We think that depends on how much the staffers make beyond the student loan benefit. And what's the total bill?

We think the resolution to all this is simple. Post the information on each Representative's and Senator's website, as well as the staff expenses, including perks, of each committee staffer. The taxpayers have a right to know what the cost is of the bill they are footing.

Then, in light of all the deficit spending, increasing cost of government and the ever increasing taxes, we can then proceed to debate the utility of such fringe benefits.

But before we get to that, perhaps we should start with the travel expenses, including those jet planes.

No, we really don't view this so much as an issue of finances, as we do as a matter of attitude. If any fringe benefit for staff and members can be justified as comparable to private industry then we'll take a different view of it. But if it is not "normal and typical" we think these perks should be prime targets for budget cutting. But beyond anything else, the taxpayers have a right to know the numbers.

We've asked for the numbers. We'll see how transparent our government is.
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  1. reply print email
    Ahhhh, the arrogance of the Ruling Class
    September 15, 2010 | 07:23 AM

    and their menions.
    Beware: Your day is coming.

    Homer Simpson
  2. reply print email
    The people actually believe
    September 15, 2010 | 07:40 AM

    they are entitled to these privileges. But they will learn otherwise. Yesterday (Dela, NH) Alaska etc. etc. should tell them something, but it doesn't. They think are are above the rest of us.
    They are really disgusting.

    Reatha
  3. reply print email
    Where's my pitchfork?
    September 15, 2010 | 09:01 AM

    It is bad when lawmakers make laws to steal from one person to give to another. It goes to another level when they make laws to legally send the goods to themselves. Butterfield obviously thinks he and his friends are entitled to the property of the folks who have worked for it. In short, he is a thief. Washington D.C. and Raleigh, N.C. are full of them. Political corruption is legal.

    P. Henry
  4. reply print email
    This Entitlement Mentality
    September 15, 2010 | 10:02 AM

    that is, those in power think they are entitled to the results of our hard work, has got to be replaced by a servant mentality. We must vote them all out in November.
    I'm no Teabagger but I do think they are on to something when they say smaller government. I don't trust this ilk.

    Susan B
  5. reply print email
    Butterfield
    September 15, 2010 | 10:10 AM

    He doesn't even know what's going on in his own office and yet he wants us to elect him to represent us in Congress to help run our government. What's wrong with that picture?? (Could the answer be that G. K. Butterfield is in it?? - Short answer: YES)

    Kimo
  6. reply print email
    Maybe this explains
    September 15, 2010 | 10:23 AM

    why Barry Obama refuses to release HIS student loan records. You reckon?

    Cynic #1
  7. reply print email
    Equality
    September 15, 2010 | 11:27 AM

    All we want is for everyone, including people in Washington, to be treated equally. Congress should be included in our healthcare, Social Security, whatever...

    Gary Chun
  8. reply print email
    Mr
    September 15, 2010 | 11:51 AM

    Since these folks work for us, all pay and benefit information should be posted as public records on the elected official's website. Perhaps that will make them less inclined to give you the brush-off when you call the office,

    I had to Google this man to find out he was a Democrat. Does this news outfit play "Name The Party"?
    Toby Flenderson
    Editor's response: We have requested data on "all" staffers in the NC delegation. If we see a partisan disparity we will report it. Until we see the data we are inclined to refrain from making it a partisan issue. Frankly, we suspect Republicans are also guilty.

  9. reply print email
    Mr. Editor
    September 15, 2010 | 07:44 PM

    Butterfield tried to sidestep the issue. When he learned that his staff had spilled the beans he gets indignant. That is just the kind of arrogance that shows what is wrong with Washington these days. We really need to clean house.

    Susan Waller
  10. reply print email
    What a crock
    September 15, 2010 | 07:52 PM

    we all know what's going on here. They are hiding what these people really make, or rather what they cost us. And I'll bet they don't pay taxes on the perks. You ought to check into that. I worked for the Federal Govt until last year and we never got any such perks.

    USDA retiree
  11. reply print email
    I smell a rat
    September 15, 2010 | 09:33 PM

    do these people pay tax on this $60,000? I'll bet you theey don't. Somebody really does need to get to the bottom of all this. I don't trust them any furthr than I could throw them. Please check it out!!1

    Lived too long
  12. reply print email
    September 15, 2010 | 09:37 PM

    Can you believe this dude? Justifies giving them $10K per year because others do it too. Give me a break. I'll bet they make enough money to pay their own student loan payments. I had to pay mine and work two jobs to do it. I am disgusted with these people who think the American taxpayer owes them a cushy job. We need to put a stop to this in November.

    Carry my own weight
  13. reply print email
    Here's the answer
    September 15, 2010 | 09:46 PM

    "Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States ". Proposed 28th Amendment
    Check it out: http://beyondrealtime.blogspot.com/2010/01/28th-amendment.html


    Dr. Strangelove
  14. reply print email
    You don't understand
    September 16, 2010 | 07:25 AM

    these people are ENTITLED to whatever they can scoop up. It never occurred to any of them that the TAXPAYER pays for this. They don't think in those terms. It is THEIR money. So it never occurs to them that thousands of students don't get the same benefits. Remember, they view it as an entitlement.

    Been there
  15. reply print email
    UR in good company
    September 16, 2010 | 08:04 AM

    In the other article with the video of Sat meeting Butterfield tried to blame the Wall Street Journal for his problems with pocketing travel funds. All a misunderstanding don't you know. Yea, right.

    Walter J
  16. reply print email
    Butterfield and his cronies have no clue
    September 16, 2010 | 10:48 AM

    there are millions of Americans out of work and many college graduates who can't find decent jobs to pay their loans. But not one word about why money should be taken FROM THEM and used to pay the loans of these bureaucrats.
    People, this is exactly why we have got to take back our government and make it OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE AND FOR THE PEOPLE. And this bunch will never even understand why they were kicked out.

    USA Patriot
  17. reply print email
    Tar and Feather
    December 13, 2010 | 12:41 PM

    All of Congress are a bunch of thieves! How dare they take from the producers and give it to those who are a drain on society. BS on the idea that this is to retain the best and brightest. Government employees on average make 60% more thatn their peers in private industry. November was not enough, we need further action for these thieves.

    Mad Max
  18. reply print email
    Is anybody really listening?
    December 27, 2010 | 07:50 PM

    Sounds like you have a lot of readers who who have the attitude. "Don't give me the facts, I've already made up my mind"

    Antique Kno
  19. reply print email
    justified as comparable to private industry . and "normal and ty
    December 31, 2010 | 10:42 AM

    There is no clear justification for government to compete with private industry on a one to one, or better basis. Government work has its perks which are absurd even though they are normal and typically unnecessary as we all know we have too much government and too many government workers who are not working at the same level of production as the private sector employees. When government works produce as much, then they should be paid as such. There are some government workers who are hard working people, and some of them may be underpaid accordingly... First, we need a lot fewer government workers and thus get more for our tax dollars. Secondly, Government workers need to understand that their benefit of being a government worker is greater than the dollar the private sector employee gets... or they should change their job a private sector job. We need good people in government jobs who enjoy the work they do without respect to the "perks" of the job other people are paying for: Our goal is Smaller government with more dedicated employees, as opposed to the larger government with less dedicated employees that we have now.

    David Z. Eunice
  20. reply print email
    Tea Party Propaganda?
    January 03, 2011 | 10:42 AM

    Reporters should do research. Unfortunately Beaufort Observer didn't do that with this article, they could have researched the congressional student load repayment policies but they didn't. They sound like a propaganda tool for the Tea Party movement. This article does point out the need to get your news from more then one source. Of course I truly doubt this will make it to the website as they "review all submissions before appearing on the website."
    Lack of Journalism
    Editor's response: Perhaps you should read the article. We did research the issue and the article reports what Rep. Butterfield's office said. Then when we asked for the payroll records we were denied them as "confidential personnel information." And the House Payroll Office also refused. We reported this and left it to our readers to draw their own conclusions from the refusal to disclose the actual numbers.
    The fact is, according to Butterfield's office, some staffers do get their college loans paid by the taxpayers as a fringe benefit of their jobs. And they refused to say whether taxes were deducted for the benefit. Go figure.

  21. reply print email
    January 06, 2011 | 11:44 AM

    Do these individuals that have their loans paid by the taxpayer receive 1099's for the gift. Seem's to me this should be added income for them.
    Ed Blackledge
    Editor's response: This information, according to Rep. G. K. Butterfield's office is "confidential personnel information and we will not release it." So there.

  22. reply print email
    Military
    January 12, 2011 | 06:04 PM

    I have been under the impression that members of Congress and their staffers children are not in the military fighting the wars over seas. Does this mean that the Politicians children do NOT have to join the Military and are exempt from fighting our wars.
    Can you find out how many of the Congressional members have children or grandchildren fighting over seas .My gues is they have NONE - ZERO - ZILCH - NADA.. From what I also found out is
    They won't let their children fight in combat . Which means to me that our children are not worth their time , and are expendable. Maybe this might be too hard a quest for you to get the info. I understand how political pressure is...Bill
    William G. Gehring , Sr.
    Editor's response: Thank you for your Feedback and we share your desire to have this information but unfortunately we do not have the staff to do such research. We're sure there is not a readily available document that list this information, but if you become aware of such please let us know and we'll be glad to publish it.

  23. reply print email
    Congretional children in mailitary
    January 13, 2011 | 08:48 AM

    Many children of congressional leaders have served or are serving in the military. Also, some congrssional leaders have them selves served.

    Go the following website:

    http://www.city-data.com/forum/politics-other-controversies/89071-politicians-sons-serving-afghanistan-iraq-wars.html


    SB
  24. reply print email
    William G. Gehring , Sr.
    January 13, 2011 | 03:43 PM

    As the old saying goes "Everyone talks about the weather , but NO one does anything about it". We can talk about corruption,
    but we don't do anything about it. As long as the politicians are in office , we'll always be the underdog. They make the rules just so they can't be arrested except for Treason , if that's the case they all should be locked up. Remember "TREASON"_"SENATOR" , sound familiar.......As long as they keep us under tow , we'll always
    have to wear the muzzle. So far they have full control over the people of the United States. BUT it's not too late.........

    William G. Gehring , Sr.
  25. reply print email
    January 13, 2011 | 03:58 PM

    Many members of Congress have children serving in the military.
    That's great , but how many are fighting in combat. NONE They get the desk jobs . How many military personnel are fighting the Government for aide , help ,because of losing arms , legs , life. mental help , Our brave men and women fight for our rights to live the American dream ,Politicians kids ride the roller coaster of life. The easy chair. They get a office job away from the maddening crowd, NO wars , NO combat , NO worries, NOT worried about losing their lives in combat. The only thing they have to worry about is falling out of a chair while sleeping in a Washington D.C. office. I'll say it "God Bless America", YES whether you like it or not "There is a God" , he only made one mistake in his life , he made politicians , and he for gave us for our sins , we can forgive him for his one little mistake. We don't have to for give the politicians.

    Willaim G. Gehring , Sr.
  26. reply print email
    What about attrition?
    March 03, 2011 | 06:58 PM

    When a senator or Rep. looses an election his staffers loose their jobs too. So hiring and retaining the best and brightest doesn't cut it with me. Oh, thats right we have career politicians. 30 to 40 years of great service to the tax payer.

    Danice McBee
  27. reply print email
    How can we trust them?
    March 04, 2011 | 05:47 PM

    This all is a crying shame they take from are SS for their agendas Obama-Clinton's-Bushes-Reagan-N Pelosi and they don't put nothing back ever and they get away with this too and now they want us to pay for a dream act and support them in school and all these things about ARIBICS COMING IN OUR SCHOOLS TO TEACH ARE CHILDREN THEIR LANGUAGE AND HISTORY it's time for them to learn our English and history. get on the computor and read whom is communist in business here and the jidhats terrorist muslim ilamic that are here. Its time to Fly are Flags every where and talk -no finghting or guns to get America back and we all must STAY WITH IN A budget. more so those in the White House on down. look up and see how much these people get to retire with and penisions and look at what our military gets. Yes where mad as hell and our National Anthem should be sung at every game and in every school and they all must remember this is our America and if they won't live with it go home close our borders Gov Brown and LT Govenor Newson now. God Bless all that Love America .lets make her better. no robes or veils in America and every holiday should be celelabrated in America and how come their weren't very many tributes to the americans heard chiness -black month and ramadan a whole month all over the white house in front. enough of that, dinner fine nothing more. The Latino's believe this is their country but we signed a treaty with them and their debit owed to us was forgotten and our Government has been giving them money over the years and we should stop the birth certifcate other countries have,let's get are English our official language now. should of been done a long time ago. No amnesty- no free entery in America any more pay and be checked out the right way. don't let Obama give us to China and Russian's Alaska or the new world oder or Government that will be a mess. wake up people read it all on the computor now seach. Let's stand up and show all of them with our Flag Flying at all schools and homes and our National Anthem every where.

    Granny S
  28. reply print email
    Tax-payers pay Congress' student loans
    March 10, 2011 | 11:18 AM

    Thank you for an interesting and ultimately thorough article. I got to it after receiving a half-informed article from FOX, claiming that staffer's families were not required to repay any of their loans nor was the Federal government required to pay any of the loan recipients. FALSE in every aspect.

    With all the cuts in Federal spending, the program where Congressional staffers and other Federal employees are having some portion of their FEDERAL loan paid for is something to reconsider supporting, but more importantly we ALL need to be less complacent regarding what we read in the media. Especially if the information is coming from a sound-bite, sensational news agency such as FOX, which is slightly better than the "National Enquirer". The entire story needs to be uncovered before a judgement is made.

    Pia Bertelli
  29. reply print email
    Mr.
    June 15, 2011 | 10:46 AM

    The responses on this site are simply amazing. A member of congress lies by intent or incompetence, then admits that the loans are being repaid by taxpayers, refuses to provide the names of the recpients of "our" generosity and ultimately attempts to turn the article against the journalist(s), and people are actually buying it! Is it any less important to recruit the best; Police Officers, Firemen, Correction Officers, Air Traffic Controllers, EMT's, Bus Drivers, Doctors, etc...etc...etc. I am not a Teabagger, Right Wing Extremist or Left Wing Activist. I am simply any American that is fed-up with double standards. It has become clear that there really will be no significant change without revolt of the people.

    Michael G
  30. reply print email
    Oh please
    July 25, 2011 | 08:10 AM

    The people who participate in this program are entry level Congressional staffers who are earning half of what they could make somewhere else because they want to be involved with Congress. They are offered the chance to have some small payments made to their student loans (much of which is taken out of their already pathetically low pay) and you're complaining? A lot of these people barely make enough money to pay DC rent. They couldn't take the job without programs like this.

    I'm a recent college grad and I wanted to accept a job working for a congressman, but I couldn't because it didn't pay enough to meet even my bare minimum expenses. I actually make more money right now working an hour and a half every evening.

    Mike
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