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Katie Sanders
By Katie Sanders July 20, 2016
Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman July 20, 2016

Florida's Sharon Day misleads on Hillary Clinton and gender pay gap

Hillary Clinton is a hypocrite for playing the gender card, says Sharon Day, co-chair of the Republican National Committee from South Florida.

"She repeatedly plays the gender card. In fact she boasts ‘deal me in.’ Well, Mrs. Clinton, consider yourself dealt in because as a senator you paid women less than the men in your office," said Day at the Republican convention July 19.

The gender pay gap is a frequent talking point -- sometimes botched -- by Democrats. So Day, a prominent Republican woman, is calling out the Democratic Party’s own here for the alleged sin of unequal pay. We could not reach Day Tuesday night.

Gender pay gap?

In 2015, we fact-checked a claim by Fox News’ Sean Hannity that as a senator, Hillary Clinton "actually paid female staffers a lot less than men." We rated that claim Mostly False.

Hannity’s statement followed a Washington Free Beacon story that stated Clinton paid her female Senate staffers 72 cents for every dollar earned by a male counterpart.

The article examined data from Senate expenditure reports from 2002-08 posted by LegiStorm Pro, a company that posts information about congressional staff including salary data.

The website warns users about extrapolating exact salary information because earnings fluctuate depending on bonuses and leaves of absence.

The data focused on full-time staffers who worked a complete fiscal year, Oct. 1-Sept. 30. Clinton was sworn in as New York’s junior senator in January 2001, so the Free Beacon analysis does not include her first nine months in office.

The Free Beacon analysis also excludes Senate employees who took leaves of absence, which is common for employees who leave for short periods to work on campaigns, or left after even 11 months of work within the fiscal year.

Regardless, the Free Beacon concluded the median salary for a woman on Clinton’s payroll was about $15,700 less than the median salary for the men of the office, or about $40,800 compared to $56,500 for men.

"The salaries speak for themselves," the story says. "The data shows that women in her office were paid 72 cents for every dollar paid to men."

Clinton campaign responds

Buzzfeed reached a different conclusion in 2015 in a story headlined, "Internal Data: Hillary Clinton Paid Women And Men Equally."

Featured Fact-check

The story was based on 2015 salary data for full-time staffers who worked in the Senate office, plus what they earned if they worked for a congressional committee or political groups Friends of Hillary, Hill PAC, and Hillary Clinton for President between 2002-08.

The data show a median salary of $40,000 for both men and women receiving official Senate pay over those seven years (excluding Clinton’s pay, since all senators have the same salary set by law.) The median salary remains equal if you factor in non-Senate work, too.

The campaign argued this is a better picture of a staffer’s annual earnings, as some staffers took time away from official duties to work for Clinton’s presidential campaign efforts in 2007 and 2008. Huma Abedin, for example, earned $20,000 in 2008 as a senior adviser on Clinton’s Senate staff, but she also made $150,000 working on the campaign that year.

"The Free Beacon based their analysis on an incomplete, and therefore, inaccurate set of numbers," Clinton spokesman Josh Schwerin told PolitiFact in 2015. "The fact is, Hillary Clinton paid full-time men and women equally."

If you isolate the data from year to year, the median earnings between men and women were not so even. In 2002, female Senate staffers (excluding Clinton) earned a median of $33,000, while men earned $42,500. The median pay gap closed in 2005 to $41,000 for women and $43,000 for men, and then women exceeded the men’s pay in 2006 and 2007.

One caveat: there were more women working for Clinton overall than men in every year.

But neither set of data fully answers whether Clinton paid men and women equally because it doesn’t compare wages for  men and women who do the same work.

Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, previously told PolitiFact it’s common for Senate staffers to temporarily leave payrolls to volunteer or work for campaigns and political committees. So he favors the Clinton campaign’s approach.

Making apples-to-apples comparisons is difficult, he said, "but it is clear that the Free Beacon approach did not take into account the reality that people move in and out of payrolls on a fairly regular basis."

Our ruling

Day said that as a senator Clinton "paid women less than the men in your office."

The data used by Free Beacon showed that the median salary for a woman on Clinton’s payroll was about $15,700 less than the median salary for the men of the office. But this data has several caveats, including that it omits leaves of absences, which are common for staffers to work on campaigns. The data also didn’t contain Clinton’s first nine months in office or staffers who left after less than a year.

A BuzzFeed analysis relied on more complete data and found the same median salary for men and women.

But neither set of data fully answers the question about whether Clinton paid women and men the same amount for the same work.

We rate this claim Mostly False.

Our Sources

Republican National Convention, Sharon Day speech, July 19, 2016

Boston Globe, "Donald Trump pays women less than men," June 2016

CNN, "Trump benefits from countries with anti-gay laws," July 19, 2016

PunditFact, "Sean Hannity: As senator, Hillary Clinton 'paid female staffers a lot less than men,'" May 21, 2015

PolitiFact, "PolitiFact Sheet: the gender pay gap," July 15, 2015, "Gender Pay Gap in Clinton’s Office," April 22, 2015

BuzzFeed, "Internal data: Hillary Clinton paid men and women equally," April 12, 2015

Interview, Tara Sinclair, George Washington University, May 21, 2014

Washington Free Beacon, "Hillary Clinton’s war on women," Feb. 23, 2015

Interview, Norman Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute scholar, May 20, 2015

Interview, Josh Schwerin, Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman, July 19, 2016

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Florida's Sharon Day misleads on Hillary Clinton and gender pay gap

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