With Erik Iverson playing dual roles as both Chief of Staff for Congressman Denny Rehberg and Chairman for the state Republican Party, Montanans might be wondering if a portion of their federal tax dollars are helping foot the bill for the GOP work.
“It’s not the role of taxpayers to subsidize or pay for the work of either party,” says Montana Democratic Party Executive Director Art Noonan. “It’s difficult to tell if that’s not what’s going on here.”
According to federal filings, Iverson draws a $160,000 salary as Rehberg’s Chief of Staff. His state party chairmanship is non-paying.
“He volunteers as chair, and that’s how it’s always been,” explains Montana Republican Party Executive Director Chris Wilcox.
“We hear of this from time to time,” says Massie Ritsch from the Center for Responsive Politics, “Congressional staff members have a vested interest in getting their boss re-elected,” which sometimes leads them to do volunteer work on the side for a re-election effort.
For critics like Noonan, Iverson’s volunteerism isn’t the issue.
“His volunteering as chair –that’s not unusual,” Noonan says. What concerns him, he says, is “the intermingling of the political business of the party with government work done for the taxpayers.”
Where does Iverson’s position as Rehberg’s key staffer end, and where does the state party chairmanship begin?
“Who pays for his phone calls about party business when he’s at work in D.C.?” asks Noonan, “How much time does he spend in the state? Where does he actually live? Where is the documentation that he’s not using senate staff, office resources, travel budget, or phone lines for his state party work?”
State filings show Iverson received less than $500 in travel reimbursements for 2007 and keeps at least one legal address in Missoula. Federal and state filings showing Iverson’s recent travel, hotel, and phone charges are not yet available; the ones that are available only detail Iverson’s travels through 2005.
Accounting for these activities is tough, says Ritsch. “We just don’t have a lot of data on it because it’s pretty difficult to research.”