Campaign 2010

Mar 29, 2011

Representative Sean Duffy Complains about his $170,000 Congressional Salary: “I Struggle”

Representative Sean Duffy (WI-07) complained about his $174,000 Congressional salary to constituents at a townhall meeting in Amery, Wisconsin even though his salary is nearly four and a half times more than what the average Wisconsin family earns annually in his district. Representative Duffy told a constituent who identified as an out -of-work builder and bus driver, “I struggle to meet my bills right now…at this point, I’m not living high off the hog.”

The reality is that Representative Duffy has consistently earned more than double what working Wisconsin families make even when he was a District Attorney. Representative Duffy received a salary of more than $90,000 in 2009. In addition, Representative Duffy claimed that he hadn’t taken a salary for seven months during his campaign, but he took a taxpayer funded salary as District Attorney for the majority of campaign for Congress, which spanned nearly a year. During the seven months he campaigned without a taxpayer-funded salary, Duffy reimbursed himself over ten thousand dollars for everything from mileage to miscellaneous expenses.

Duffy’s exchange with a constituent at his townhall meeting in Amery Wisconsin follows:

Constituent: I’m a builder. I haven’t been building too many things in the last couple years with the economy down. My wife is a teacher. I’m fortunate enough to take a bus driving job. Love it. Just love it. But it’s not very much money of course. It’s working for us. I’m just wondering, what are Congressman’s, Senator’s wages? My wife is going to have to take a cut if this bill goes through and I’m just wondering what your wage is  and if you guys would be willing to take a cut?

Duffy:  So the question is, what is my wage? And I’ll answer your question and I’ll get to it in one second. I was the Ashland County DA and uh I decided to run for Congress. And as this race heated up in the first part of June, I resigned as the Ashland County DA because I didn’t want to campaign on your tax dollars and so I didn’t and I resigned. I have 6 children and I’ve gone for roughly 7 months with 6 kids and no paycheck. It was worth it for me to do that because I believe in what I was doing. I get the Congressional salary is 174 thousand dollars. I didn’t vote on that . I got there on January 5th. I came into it without a play in it.

Constituent: But a hundred and seventy-four thousand, that’s three times — that’s three of my family’s — three times what I make.

Duffy: Well our budget…I moved to cut by 5 percent. I did. You know what, I have no problem..let’s have a movement afoot. I walked into this job 6 weeks that I worked incredibly hard for. And I can guarantee you or most of you, I guarantee that I have more debt than all of you. With 6 kids, I still pay off my student loans. I still pay my mortgage. I drive a used minivan. If you think I’m living high off the hog, I’ve got one paycheck. So I..I struggle to meet my bills right now. Would it be easier for me if I get more paychecks? Maybe, but at this point I’m not living high off the hog.


Average Wisconsin family earns just above $39,000. According to the US Census Bureau, the median income of a household in Wisconsin is $39,026. [US Census Bureau Fast Facts]

Duffy earned over $90,000 in 2009. In 2009, while serving as Ashland County District Attorney, Duffy received a salary of $93,123. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2009]

Duffy earned nearly $90,000 in 2007. In 2007, while serving as Ashland County District Attorney, Duffy received a salary of $88,258. [, 2007]

Duffy announced his run for Congress in July 2009. In July 2009, Duffy announced he would run for Wisconsin’s seventh congressional seat. [WAOW, 7/08/09]

Duffy did not step down as Ashland County D.A. until July 2010. In June 2010, nearly a after having announced his run for Congress, Duffy announced he would be resigning from his office effective at the end of the month. [WSAW, 6/04/10]

Duffy reimbursed himself more than $10,000 for expenses during the campaign. According to FEC reports, Duffy was reimbursed a total of $10,402.72 from his federal campaign account for “mileage.”  The reimbursements occurred during a time period dating from September 30, 2009 through March 10, 2010.  [Duffy FEC reports, 2009-10, Federal Election Commission]

Want the latest updates? Follow the DCCC on Facebook and Twitter: