The Washington Free Beacon today reported that "Senate Democrats pay female staffers less than male staffers" and are running afoul of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which provides women more legal room to file pay discrimination claims against employers. However, the Free Beacon story refutes its own attack.
From the Free Beacon article:
A group of Democratic female senators on Wednesday declared war on the so-called "gender pay gap," urging their colleagues to pass the aptly named Paycheck Fairness Act when Congress returns from recess next month. However, a substantial gender pay gap exists in their own offices, a Washington Free Beacon analysis of Senate salary data reveals.
Of the five senators who participated in Wednesday's press conference--Barbara Mikulski (D., Md.), Patty Murray (D., Wash.), Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.)--three pay their female staff members significantly less than male staffers.
After highlighting the gender pay gaps of several other Democratic Senators, the Free Beacon threw cold water on its own claims:
Women working for Senate Democrats in 2011 pulled in an average salary of $60,877. Men made about $6,500 more.
While the gap is significant, it is slightly smaller than that of the White House, which pays men about $10,000, or 13 percent, more on average, according to a previous Free Beacon analysis.
That previous analysis showed that the gender pay gap for the White House is smaller than in the overall economy. The Free Beacon is telling its readers that the gender pay gap among Senate Democratic staffers is even smaller than that.
The Free Beacon then went even further in undermining their own story:
One possible explanation for the pay disparity is the noticeable preference among Senate Democrats' for male chiefs of staff, who typically draw the highest congressional salaries. Of the 46 Democratic Senators listing a chief of staff on their payroll in 2011, 13 were women.
A similar disparity exists in the White House, which employs 74 men and only 48 women in senior positions.
The relative shortage of women chiefs of staff is a valid criticism, but it has nothing to do with pay discrimination based on gender. Free Beacon made no attempt in its story to prove that female Senate Democratic staffers are being paid less than male staffers holding the same position. As The American Prospect's Paul Waldman explained when the Free Beacon attacked the White House over a supposed gender pay gap, pointing out that more men than woman occupy higher-paying positions doesn't prove that "women are being paid less for doing the same job -- the kind of discrimination the Ledbetter act was designed to combat."