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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Hill of beans

Can a member of Congress really be this clueless?

Rep. Baron Hill is making no apologies for giving his staff members tens of thousands of dollars in year-end bonuses, despite the tough economic times.

6News' Kara Kenney reported last month that Indiana congressmen doled out more than $600,000 in bonuses from 2006 to 2008.

Hill, D-Seymour, who Kenney caught up with at a news conference in Nashville, Ind., gave out tens of thousands in bonuses in 2007 and 2008, some up to 11 percent of the employee's salary, according to Legistorm, a Web site that compiles legislative salaries.


For example, Hill field representative Adam Dickey received a $5,000 bonus in 2008, while records show that Hill staff members make between $40,000 and $50,000.


"The people who work for me don't make a whole lot of money. They work very hard, long hours -- a 12-hour day is a short day -- so the bonuses were justified based on the amount of work they produced," Hill said.

I've met a lot of congressional staffers over the years, and they're generally young and eager and impressed as hell that they get to work so close to the heart of power in this country. $50,000 may be "underpaid" by Hill's standards, but his staffers aren't exactly next in line at the food stamp window.

And they wonder why so many people out here are so angry with Congress.