By Casey Burgat
The well-known impetus for Rep. Tim Murphy’s (R-PA) forced retirement from Congress later this month was the bombshell revelation that he urged his mistress to undergo an abortion despite his staunch pro-life stance. Receiving far less attention, however, is a June 2017 memo authored by Murphy’s long-serving chief of staff, Susan Mosychuk, that suggests his systematic mistreatment of his staff may well have led to Murphy’s downfall even if his affair scandal hadn’t.
In the memo, Mosychuk details a “pattern of sustained inappropriate behavior and engagement from the Congressman to and with staff” including mistreating and harassing aides and “unreasonable expectations and ongoing criticisms.” Mosychuk also writes of , “abysmal office moral,” and an inordinate amount of staff turnover within the office---“near 100% turnover within one year's’ time”---confirming Hill rumors that Rep. Murphy’s office hemorrhaged employees.
Is it true that Rep. Murphy, and his office environment, churned through congressional staffers, as Mosychuk suggests? If so, has he done so since first being elected in 2003, or was his reputation for doing so a recent development?
Using LegiStorm employment data, we took stock of Rep. Murphy’s staff employment trends throughout his congressional tenure. Important to note in using this data is that Representatives are capped at employing 18 permanent employees at any given time, plus an additional four staffers serving as part-time, shared, or temporary aides. Thus, Members have a hard ceiling of 22 employees at any one time.
Figure 1 above shows the number of separated staffers---those leaving Murphy’s office---in each year of his career. On average, Murphy had over 8 staffers leave his office per year, resulting in 39% of his aides separating each year on average even using the most conservative staff total of 22 employees.
Only once in his 15 year career (2008) did Rep. Murphy have less than 6 staffers leave his office. During five years of Murphy’s career, 10 or more staffers left, with a high of 16 departing in 2004, just one year after his first year in office. All in all, Murphy aides separated from his office at an incredibly high, and fairly consistent, clip since his election in 2003.
As a second measure of office turnover, we calculated how long each of Rep. Murphy’s aides were employed by his office. Figure 2 presents the distribution of staffers’ tenure lengths. During his time in Congress, just under one half of Murphy aides---48.25%---worked in his office for less than one year. Another 25.67% stayed only between one and two years. Thus, of the 150 employees Rep. Murphy employed throughout his time in Congress, only 25.17% of Murphy’s aides remained on his staff for more than two years.
Taken together, these measures of office aide turnover give credence to Hill rumors and Mosychuk’s allegations that Rep. Murphy’s office was one in which staffers purposefully avoided or quickly departed after signing on. Though new accounts also suggest Mosychuk was also a contributor to Murphy’s ‘reign of terror’, the employment trends of those serving within Murphy’s office clearly show that the Representative faced an inordinate and nearly constant high rate of replacement during his entire run in Congress.
Casey Burgat is a governance fellow at the R Street Institute.