Ad Alleges Begich Shortchanges His Female Staff – Is It True?

An ad running against Sen. Mark Begich attacks him on his support for women – exactly where he proclaims his strength. The ad, by Crossroads GPS, says he favors men when it comes to setting salaries for his Senate staff.

Listen now:

Sen. Begich attended a rally in Anchorage this week to mark National Women’s Equality Day and called for an end to gender pay disparities.

“We cannot in this country continue to have these inequities when it comes to men and women, whether it’s pay, benefits or anything else. So you’re going to find me working double time.”

In a new ad, Crossroads GPS, an Independent political group affiliated with Karl Rove, says Begich doesn’t live by the principle he preaches.

“Sen. Begich pays his female senate staff 71 cents for every dollar he pays men. On average, women working for Sen. Begich make 23k less than men.”

In an interview after the rally, Begich refuted those numbers.

“I don’t know where he got that data. I can tell you when you go job to job, classification to classification, we pay women 108 %. In other words, more than men. I’m sure he’ll run an ad on that next saying I don’t pay men enough!”

In Washington, senators set the salaries for their staff, within an overall office budget. A review of staff salaries for the first half of the fiscal year shows, on average, Begich does pay men more. There are endless ways to crunch the numbers, but excluding interns and part-timers, APRN found he pays men an average annual salary of  nearly $80,000, and women about $64,000. It comes to 82 cents on the dollar. It was about the same last year, too.

Begich says it skews the numbers when you include what is far and away the top salary: $153,000 for chief of staff David Ramseur. When that one is excluded, the wage gap shrinks, but it still comes to 89 cents on the dollar.

Begich does have a lot of women on staff, nearly double the number of men, and they’re not just in the entry-level spots. Looking at his 10 best paid staffers, half are women.

As for Begich’s claim that he actually pays women a bit more for the same position, that is true in some cases, and when looking at the same position over several years. But right now, there’s only one job title held by several men and several women. It’s “legislative assistant” and there are seven of them. The men who hold that position make $6,000 more per year than the women, on average.


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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska’s congressional delegation, federal agency decisions that shape life in the 49th state, money in politics and elections. She has deep roots in Alaska and this is her third stint in Washington, a city she has grown to love.

She was born in Anchorage and is a West High graduate. She studied political science at the University of Washington and has an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia. During graduate school, she moved to Washington to intern as a D.C. correspondent. But for her first real journalism job, she moved back to Alaska to work at the Homer News. She was there for three years before taking a job at the Anchorage Daily News. Over the course of nine years in Anchorage, she covered City Hall, courts, state politics, and Native and rural affairs.

Then, in April 2001, she moved back to Washington to work in McClatchy Newspaper’s D.C. bureau as a correspondent for the Anchorage paper. She stayed in the position for five years.

She took a year off for a journalism fellowship at the University of Colorado in Boulder, then freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio.

When a vacancy occurred in APRN’s one-person Washington bureau, she jumped at the opportunity. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013.

lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz