National Taxpayers Union

June 2, 2003

Dear Congressman:

Although you may be unaware of it, there is an obscure law that is applicable to Members of Congress seeking another office. This long-standing statute requires Members of Congress to forgo pay for days missed due to campaign appearances or other unexcused absences.

According to 2 U.S. Code 39, “The Chief Administrative Officer of the House of Representatives ... shall deduct from the monthly payments (or other periodic payments authorized by law) of each Member ... the amount of his salary for each day that he has been absent from the House ... unless such Member ... assigns as the reason for such absence the sickness of himself or of some member of his family.”

Under 2 U.S. Code 48, the Speaker is responsible for certifying the salary accounts of Representatives. To discharge that responsibility, the Speaker must make a good faith inquiry into whether any salary deductions under Section 39 are in order.

We believe Congress should institute procedures to implement this law, which, unfortunately, has been largely ignored for decades. If you are absent for a campaign event during a day the House is in session, we recommend that you implement the law on your own by asking the Chief Administrative Officer to make the appropriate salary deduction. Alternatively, you could
write a check to the U.S. Treasury for the amount equal to the cost of your absences due to campaign events.

To determine the amount of your salary to deduct for each day missed, we suggest simply dividing your annual Congressional salary by 251, since there are 261 weekdays per year, and 10 federal holidays. At current Congressional salaries, that is $616.33 per day.

After revealing the existence of this law a few years ago, we found that many citizens agreed that it is unfair to subsidize the salaries of Members of Congress running for other office.

I have enclosed additional information on this law, including a legal memorandum written by attorney Bruce Fein that discusses the validity and requirements of 2 U.S. Code 39 and 2 U.S. Code 48.

Please let me know in writing whether or not you plan to voluntarily follow this law during your campaign. We plan to publish a report on those Members of Congress who are running for other office on whether and how they plan to comply with this law. The report will be published some time after June 16, 2003. Our fax number is 703-683-5722.


John Berthoud

Letters Sent to:

The Honorable Richard Burr
The Honorable Mac Collins
The Honorable Jim DeMint
The Honorable Ernie Fletcher
The Honorable Mark Foley
The Honorable Richard Gephardt
 The Honorable Johnny Isakson
The Honorable Dennis Kucinich
The Honorable Pat Toomey

                      The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert, Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives
                      The Honorable Bob Ney, Chairman, Committee on House Administration
                      James M. Eagen III, Chief Administrative Officer
                      Jeff Trandahl, Clerk of the House