Friday, July 23, 2004

Consultant bonuses criticized

Firm earned an extra $86,000 from GOP money

The Associated Press

CLEVELAND - A consulting firm for the House Republican Campaign Committee earned $86,000 in bonuses drawn from money raised primarily by the GOP lawmakers, a newspaper reported Thursday.

Sisk & Associates received 4 percent of all money raised in excess of $1,000,500 in 2003. Kyle Sisk, House Speaker Larry Householder's chief fund-raiser, also had an $8,000-a-month salary, the Plain Dealer reported.

"It's an obscene amount," said Rep. John Widowfield, a Republican of Cuyahoga Falls. "The contract and the money they (Sisk and Brett Buerck, Householder's former chief of staff) were making just proves why the caucus should have access to all the records. I have a hard time believing that any of the representatives would have agreed to that type of contract."

Buerck is owed $100,000 and Sisk is due $50,000 for early termination of their contracts, which were released this month.

The men were fired as consultants in June as federal agents began investigating allegations of campaign finance irregularities.

Householder, a Glenford Republican, was targeted by an anonymous nine-page memo that alleged a scheme to embezzle campaign funds. The memo surfaced in March.

Sisk, when reached on his cell phone early Thursday morning, would not comment on the bonus or other aspects of his contract, but said he stood by his record.

"If you look across the country, in the United States of America, and look at the performance of majority caucuses in the United States, we do OK.

"In fact, I think you'll find, if you check the statistics out, you'll find that since I started with the House, we have one of the best records on electing Republicans in the country, and I stand by my record," he said.

Buerck declined to comment when reached on his cell phone early Thursday, saying he had not seen the Plain Dealer story.

Householder made the bonus retroactive to Jan. 1, 2003, even though Sisk didn't sign the contract until July 7, the newspaper reported.

Campaign finance reports showed that Sisk raised nearly $2.2 million after hitting his bonus number in 2003. More than $1.9 million of that sum came from the campaign committees of House Republicans - meaning that roughly $76,000 of the $86,000 bonus came as a result of the fund-raising efforts of members of the House GOP caucus.

Householder, who can't run for re-election in the House because of term limits, has denied allegations of wrongdoing.

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