It became a popular refrain from Capitol Hill lawmakers during last fall's government shutdown: If federal workers aren't getting a paycheck, then neither will I. Lawmakers promised to donate their salaries to charity. Or send it back to the federal government to pay down the national debt.
But did they?
The Washington Post surveyed all 237 members of Congress who promised to give away their salaries and received 147 responses. Republican Ken Calvert of Riverside and Democrat Susan Davis of San Diego are among those who did not respond. Just over three dozen said they kept their salaries since federal workers ended up receiving retroactive paychecks. But more than a hundred followed through with their promise.
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California gave the largest donation to a single organization— $10,000 — to a Washington non-profit that supports inner-city Catholic schools in D.C.
Here's what other California lawmakers did with their shutdown salary:
- Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove): $2,400 to both the Reading Partners literacy program and the U.C. Davis’ Children’s Miracle Network.
- Julia Brownley (D-Ventura): $7,250 to the Ventura County Veterans Fund
- John Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek): $11,398 — which, his office reported, "is greater than the Congressman’s take home pay during the shutdown" — to the Yosemite Conservancy, the Food Bank of Solano, the Solano County Library and other organizations.
- Scott Peters (D-San Diego): Approximately $7,000 to charity, $2,500 to pay for child care and travel expenses for a Heroes at Home event for military spouses at MCAS Miramar, $500 to Ocean Beach Town Council for a Holiday Toy Drive, $2,000 to Jewish Family Services for meals at the University City Older Adults Center, $2,000 to San Diego Rescue Mission for homeless meals service.
- Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo): $3,500, divided between San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, Second Harvest Food Bank of San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, Community Service League of San Mateo County, and St. Anthony’s of Burlingame.
- David Valadao (R-Hanford): Donated 16 days of pay to Kings Community Action Organization, Community Action Partnership, Central Valley Honor Flight "and other local charities" in his district.
Thirteen lawmakers from around the country gave $80,000 back to the federal government to reduce the federal debt. The Wounded Warrior Project, which assists veterans and members of the military, was the largest single non-profit recipient of lawmaker contributions. Ten politicos donated $30,000. In total, lawmakers gave $465,000 to charities or the U.S. Treasury.
Of course, some lawmakers don't wait for a government shutdown to give their salary away. Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of Vista has been donating his entire $174,000 salary to charity for years. It's his charity, the Issa Family Foundation. Issa, of course, is also one of the richest lawmakers on Capitol Hill.