For Immediate Release: June 1, 1999
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (202) 296-2787

Groups Ask Presidential Candidates About Presidential Pay Raise

Opponents of a proposed $200,000 presidential pay raise sent letters today to eleven presidential candidates to solicit their views on the pay raise.

Signatories to the letters include Ralph Nader; Gary Ruskin, Director, Congressional Accountability Project; Russell Verney, Chairman, Reform Party; Paul Weyrich, President, Free Congress Foundation; John Berthoud, President, National Taxpayers Union; Steve Dasbach, National Director, Libertarian Party; Starlene Rankin, Coordinating Committee Member, Green Party USA.

Letters were sent to Lamar Alexander, Gary Bauer, Bill Bradley, Pat Buchanan, George W. Bush, Steve Forbes, Al Gore, John Kasich, John McCain, Dan Quayle, and Bob Smith. No letter was sent to Elizabeth Dole; she opposes the presidential pay raise.

Following is the text of the letter sent to Texas Governor George W. Bush:

Dear Governor Bush:

On May 14, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service and General Government approved a provision to double the President's salary to $400,000 per year. Do you support or oppose this proposed $200,000 pay raise for the President?

As you know, the President currently enjoys a salary of $200,000 per year, with perquisites, a $50,000 expense allowance, living expense benefits that befit a king, plus a near certain prospect, if desired, of becoming a multimillionaire upon leaving office. The value of a presidential pension is $152,000 annually in fiscal year 1999. Ten years ago, according to The New York Times, Lloyd Cutler, then-chairman of the Commission on Executive, Legislative and Judicial Salaries, estimated that the value of president perquisites was then about $500,000 per year.

The President, as chief executive of the federal government, traditionally receives the highest salary in the federal government. As top federal government salaries have risen to approach an unchanged presidential salary, the President's salary increasingly acts as a cap on the salaries of Members of Congress and federal judges. Some federal judges and Members of Congress criticize the cap. Although there is still sufficient room under the cap, Members of Congress and federal judges complain of "pay compression" at the top of the federal pay scale. The protagonists of this presidential pay raise have large ambitions. They want much more expanded governmental pay levels at the upper reaches of the federal pay scale.

We oppose a pay raise for the President. To the overwhelming majority of Americans, $200,000 per year plus enormous living expense benefits, pension, staff and lucrative future prospects is already a great deal of money. The President suffers no real privations. The President does not need more money, except to pay legal bills. We have no lack of exceptionally bright and talented people in this country who would be happy to serve as President for $200,000 per year.

The President's salary and benefits come from taxpayers, more than 99% of whom earn far less than the President. Taxpayers work hard to fill the coffers of the federal government. It is wrong for the differential between the President's salary and the median American's to grow any larger, because such a high Presidential compensation package begins to look as if the President were taking advantage of the taxpayers. It erodes the President's moral authority to govern.

To make matters worse, this raise is not to $250,000, or $300,000, or even $350,000 per year -- but a full doubling of the President's salary. If the President's salary is raised, then watch for a round of major pay increases involving thousands of high-level officials and bureaucrats. (And who knows what this would incite in the private sector, and whether it could possibly stimulate an inflationary mentality in both the public and private sectors.)

The President draws a salary from a federal government that is currently $5.6 trillion in debt. If we are to reduce the federal debt, the upper reaches of government must lead by example, and sacrifice for the good of our country. That means the President first. Such self-restraint is at the core of exemplary leadership models throughout history. Our nation's frugality should begin in the President's home.

We want to know where you stand.


Ralph Nader
Gary Ruskin, Director, Congressional Accountability Project
Russell Verney, Chairman, Reform Party
Paul Weyrich, President, Free Congress Foundation
John Berthoud, President, National Taxpayers Union
Steve Dasbach, National Director, Libertarian Party
Starlene Rankin, Coordinating Committee Member, Green Party USA