Yeah But What Does She Get Paid? | Vol. 2 / No. 48.5

And why are you even asking? | Photo: CarlB104, CC BY 2.0
And why are you even asking? | Photo: CarlB104, CC BY 2.0

In which, since Elle’s off this week, I take a few minutes trying to control my blood pressure while I fill in.


This week, the inquisition inquest into Planned Parenthood — after the release of video made by the lying sack-of-garbage fifth-amendment-pleading out-of-context-video-making ideologues at The “Center” for “Medical” “Progress”— reached its nadir with an ignorant, bullying, badgering, mansplaining “interview” of Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards on Tuesday. I really don’t have any polite words to describe the human waste that fills certain congressional seats in this country, but thankfully, I don’t need to intervene, because other people in the room felt compelled to do so themselves.

One villain of this story, House Oversight chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) (the interrupty guy, not the winking guy), decided to badger Richards about, of all things, her salary, noting that it had gone up. This is a problem for Chaffetz, because he thinks it’s his business what she gets paid, because she gets paid with his taxes. That led to this delightful little exchange:

“Your compensation in 2009 was $353,000. Is that correct?”

Richards said she didn’t have the exact number available.

“It was. Congratulations,” Chaffetz said in response before asking Richards about a salary increase.

“In 2013, your compensation went up some $240,000. Your compensation, we’re showing, based on your tax returns, is $590,000. Correct?”

Actually, it wasn’t, it was $520,000, which is a lot of money, I’m not going to lie. But it’s not a lot of money compared to what the (overwhelmingly male) CEOs of other comparable national organizations make. For example “in 2013 […] Laurance Hoagland Jr., chief investment officer of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, made $2.5 million, and John Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society, made $2.1 million.” And it’s not even a lot compared to what Chaffetz himself makes.

Chaffetz makes at least $174,000 a year, the minimum a congressperson makes. But of course that’s 100% funded by the taxpayer, and not 41% funded, like the folks at Planned Parenthood, so a more equivalent number would be $424,390. Or if you want to do it the other way around, it’s the difference between Chaffetz’s $174,000 and 41% of Richards’s salary, or $213,000, which, sure, is more. But it’s not exactly astronomical. If you average it out, she costs the taxpayer $39,000 a year more than Chaffetz. Not exactly what I’d call “exorbitant,” especially given how much Planned Parenthood does for the average American, compared with the first and second least productive Congresses in American history, of which Rep. Chaffetz was a member.

Talking about Richards’s salary is a red herring, designed by noted government spending “hawk” Chaffetz to make it seem like the money going from the federal government to Planned Parenthood is somehow wasted. But when you look at the going rate for CEOs (which, I think you’re compelled to do if you have any modicum of fairness in your body), and look at what else the government spends its money on (people like Rep. Chaffetz, for instance) it’s really not that bad.

And more than that, given that salaries tend not to be discussed at these things, just pointing it out is just a pretty damn sexist thing to do. Gratefully, there were some congresspeople present who felt like pointing that out to Rep. Chaffetz.

“The entire time I’ve been in Congress, I’ve never seen a witness beaten up and questioned about their salary,” [said Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)] “Ms. Richards heads a distinguished organization providing health care services to millions of Americans. I find it totally inappropriate and discriminatory.”

Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA) also chimed in in Richards’s defense, chiding the others present:

“My colleagues like to say there’s no war on women. Look at how you’ve been treated as a witness […] Intimidation. Talking Over. Interrupting. Cutting off sentences. Criticizing you because of your salary. How dare you! Who do you think you are, making a professional salary as the head of a premier national organization and daring to actually make decisions as the head of that organization?”

And perhaps the best response came from Representative Elijah Cummings, who said, well, you can watch what he said yourself (do it, it’s amazing):

h/t to DailyKos for the link.

Expecting sexism from the man leading the witch hunt against inquiry into Planned Parenthood may be par for the course, but in this case, thankfully, people stepped up to Richards’s defense. Think of it as a very small, possibly in-need-of-a-polish, silver lining.

Thankfully for my blood pressure, Elle will be back next week.


Richard Ford Burley is a doctoral candidate in English at Boston College, where he’s writing about remix culture and the processes that generate texts in the Middle Ages and on the internet. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, and feminism (and just inexcusably sexist behaviour in Congress) here at This Week In Tomorrow.