You're Paying Ted Cruz's Salary So He Can Run For President
A few weeks before Texas Senator Ted Cruz officially decided to seek a new job—that of President of the United States—Catherine Frazier had to quit hers. For the past two years, she'd been Cruz's Senate press secretary; now she was going to do the same job for his presidential campaign—which meant leaving the federal government payroll. Quitting one's job to join a presidential campaign is unsurprisingly common: According to Frazier, at least three other aides in Cruz's Senate office have decamped to his presidential campaign team. Even Cruz's wife, Heidi, has taken an unpaid leave from her job at Goldman Sachs for the duration of her husband's campaign.
Seemingly the only person in Cruz World whose job hasn't been impacted by Cruz's decision to run for president? Ted Cruz. As he crisscrosses the country in pursuit of the presidency—this weekend was in South Carolina for a Republican cattle call—he continues to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate (and pull down his $174,000 annual salary). There on Capitol Hill, he's joined by three other officially-declared presidential candidates: Kentucky's Rand Paul, Florida's Marco Rubio, and Vermont's Bernie Sanders. Next month, a fifth U.S. Senator, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, is expected to toss his hat in the ring. Meanwhile, it's only a matter of time until Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal officially launch their own presidential bids. And none of them will quit their taxpayer-funded day jobs in order to do so.
But the option to holding down other jobs while running for president isn't always available to candidates in the private sector. Right before retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson officially launched his presidential campaign last week, he resigned from the corporate boards of Costco and a biotech firm. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, meanwhile, gave up his Fox News show and even stopped serving as the spokesman for a questionable diabetes cure in order to run for the White House. Maybe that's why, in announcing his presidential candidacy earlier this week, Huckabee took a shot at his fellow presidential candidates who haven't made such sacrifices. "If you live off the government payroll and you want to run for [an] office other than the one you've been elected to," he said, "then at least have the integrity and decency to resign the one that you don't want anymore."
Huckabee's got a point. Yes, there's a long and venerable tradition of this sort of political multitasking. When John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960, he remained a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. In 1992, Bill Clinton continued to govern Arkansas while he pursued the White House — even abandoning the campaign trail at one point to fly back to Little Rock to oversee an execution. But, while those campaigns were undoubtedly full-time endeavors, they were shorter ones: Kennedy's campaign didn't officially begin until about 11 months before election day; Clinton's kicked off in a little over a year before he won the White House.
These days presidential campaigns officially start nearly two years before election day—to say nothing of all the unofficial campaigning that occurs before an announcement—and that means an awful lot of missed work for those candidates who run while holding elected office. Barack Obama, who officially launched his 2008 presidential campaign in February of 2007, didn't participate in 53 percent of Senate votes in his last two years representing Illinois; his Republican opponent, Arizona Senator, John McCain, missed 64 percent of the votes in that same period.
And the current crop of multi-taskers isn't faring much better. In the Senate, according to a tally last month by Roll Call's Hawkins, Rubio had skipped 21 percent of votes this year, while Cruz had missed 18 percent of them and Lindsey Graham had missed 12 percent. (Paul, by contrast, had only missed 1 percent of votes.) When Cruz recently took some flack from Republican activists for skipping the vote that confirmed Loretta Lynch as Attorney General--an appointment he stridently opposed and vowed to vote against--he offered the novel explanation that "[a]bsence is the equivalent of a no vote." And it's not just votes that Cruz has been missing. In March Politicoreported that Cruz had attended only 3 of the Senate Armed Services Committee's 16 public hearings this year.
As for Governors, there's no tidy metric—like votes and committee hearings—to calculate all the work that goes undone while they run for the White House, but the anecdotal evidence is plentiful. Christie, for instance, participated in public events in New Jersey on fewer than 50 days in the second half of last year. Walker's credential-burnishing trip to Great Britain earlier this year not only took him away from Madison but cost Wisconsin taxpayers $138,200. And as Louisiana hurtled toward an unprecedented budget crisis earlier this year, Jindal was spending much of his time courting Iowans and South Carolinians with pronouncements on foreign policy.