Everyone has an opinion, and many have horror stories to back them up.
But now Legistorm — the online portal that tracks Capitol Hill’s workforce in detail — is putting hard data to the debate over the worst bosses in Congress.
The site is out with a new feature — actually titled “Worst Bosses?” — that shows the members of the House and Senate with the highest turnover. The organization used salary data from 2001 to 2016 to determine the 10 offices in each chamber that have the highest annual turnover rate, with a formula that weights the departure of senior officials higher than lower-level staff. Leadership offices, where frequent turnover is expected, were excluded.
“It’s much more important, for example, if a chief of staff turns over than if a lowly staff assistant turns over,” said Jock Friedly, LegiStorm’s CEO and founder. “It’s perfectly normal for a staff assistant to turn over. And obviously it’s particularly usual for paid interns to turn over so that obviously has little impact on an office.”
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s (D-Texas) office topped the list in the House, with an annual turnover rate of 62 percent, according to LegiStorm. Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) came in behind her with 60 percent annual turnover, followed by Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) with 54 percent.
In the Senate, Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar led the pack with an annual turnover rate of 36 percent, followed by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) with 30 percent and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) with 28 percent.
LegiStorm is declining to guess whether the high turnover stems from a toxic work environment or employees simply advancing in their careers.
“We don’t say why” the offices have high turnover rates, Friedly said. “We can’t tell you whether they’re bad human beings or, you know, if they’re sexual harassers or, you know, phone throwers.”
Rep. Kay Granger’s (R-Texas) office, which had the seventh highest annual turnover rate in the House from 2001 to 2016, said her office has been a launching pad for staffers, who have gone on to serve in the Bush administration and congressional leadership. Barrett Karr, Granger’s former chief of staff, for example, is House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) chief of staff.
“Congresswoman Granger hires the best, and when staff does decide to leave, they go to work for influential people or businesses,” said Kevin Boland, Granger’s communications director. “She appreciates the dedication and hard work of her current and former staff members.”
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), fifth on the list, also suggested his staff excelled and so moved on to other opportunities, as did a source in Rep. Elizabeth Esty’s (D-Conn.) office, which is No. 9 in the House’s top 10. Former Esty communications directors Laura Maloney and Craig Frucht, for instance, are now Sen. Chris Murphy’s (D-Conn.) press secretary and deputy communications director on Rep. Jared Polis’ (D-Colo.) campaign for governor, respectively.
“This ranking doesn’t reflect the fact that most of the Senator’s senior staff have been with her since the beginning of her first term,” said Ryan Nickel, a spokesman for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) on the senator’s ninth-place spot. “Many departures during this time period were either junior staff pursuing higher education or more experienced staff joining the Obama administration, all of which the office encouraged.“
Other lawmakers on the list defended their offices for demanding a lot from aides, including Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), who rounded out the House’s top 10 in turnover.
"It's no secret that Rep. Coffman is one of the hardest working Members on the Hill. Mike has high standards — expects a lot,” said Coffman spokesperson Daniel Bucheli. “He has one of the hardest working staffs in the Capitol and back home, and it shows from the results he produces for the district.”