When it comes to taxpayer-funded payrolls, Eric Bedingfield might have one of the most unusual working arrangements in the United States.
The 46-year-old Republican is a state House member representing part of Greenville County in the northwestern part of the state. He also is deputy chief of staff for GOP U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney of Lancaster County, a former state lawmaker whose 5th Congressional District includes 11 counties on the state’s northeast side.
On top of that, Bedingfield is Mulvaney’s campaign manager. Mulvaney in 2010 defeated longtime Democratic Congressman John Spratt of York County.
Both his staff and campaign positions with Mulvaney are part-time jobs, Bedingfield reported on an income-disclosure form that he voluntarily submitted last week to the South Carolina Policy Council – The Nerve’s parent organization – as part of the Policy Council’s “Project Conflict Watch,” an initiative launched in April to encourage state officials to publicly reveal the sources of their private income.
Contacted last week by The Nerve, Jon Kuhl, spokesman for the National Conference of State Legislatures, which has offices in Washington, D.C., and Denver, said he couldn’t recall another recent example of a state lawmaker being on the payroll of a U.S. congressman or senator.
“It’s not a very common practice,” said Garrett Snedeker, editor of the Washington, D.C.-based LegisStorm, an online provider of in-depth information about members of Congress and their staffs, when contacted by The Nerve.
Bedingfield wasn’t asked on the Policy Council’s income-disclosure form to reveal how much he makes working for Mulvaney. The Nerve’s review of federal and state records found that his taxpayer-funded pay as a part-time employee on Mulvaney's staff is far more than what most South Carolinians likely would consider a typical part-time wage.
As Mulvaney’s deputy chief of staff, Bedingfield earned a taxpayer-funded salary of $74,315 in 2012, according to his required statement of economic interests that he filed with the State Ethics Commission on April 18. LegiStorm records show that he was paid $78,840 in 2012 and $18,000 for the first three months of this year.
Federal Election Commission records show that as Mulvaney’s campaign manager, Bedingfield received $33,670 in pay in 2012 from Mulvaney’s campaign account. When combined with his salary as a member of Mulvaney’s congressional staff, as reported on his state income-disclosure form, and $22,400 in reportable income as state lawmaker, Bedingfield’s total income last year for his three part-time jobs came to $130,385.
“I’m good at my job; I work hard,” Bedingfield told The Nerve when contacted Saturday. “A (state) legislator’s salary can’t pay enough to feed four children.”
Bedingfield said he generally works 20 hours a week as Mulvaney’s deputy chief of staff and another 20 hours weekly as his campaign manager, though he added the hourly split can vary depending on the time of the year and election cycles.
Based on his 2012 annual federal salary of $74,315 as reported on his state income-disclosure form, Bedingfield would have earned $71.45 per hour in his congressional job, given a 20-hour work week.
Bedingfield, who has elected to the S.C. House in 2006, lists his occupations on the General Assembly’s website as “Real Estate, Businessman.” Bedingfield acknowledged to The Nerve that his legislative biography hasn’t been updated, noting that he no longer owns a real estate business, and that he put his state real estate license on inactive status.
As Mulvaney's deputy chief of staff, Bedingfield is the congressman's district director in South Carolina. The district’s main office is in Rock Hill, with satellite offices in Gaffney and Sumter. Bedingfield said he typically travels to Washington when the state General Assembly is out of session or when the S.C. House is on furlough, estimating that he makes trips to Capitol Hill “once or twice every six months.”
U.S. House records show that Bedingfield received a total of $5,261 in travel and lodging payments related to his congressional job from January of 2011 through mid-March of this year.
Under U.S. House rules, each member of Congress may employ no more than 18 permanent employees, though an additional four employees are allowed if they fall into certain categories, including part-time employees, according to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report issued in January. Bedingfield is listed on U.S. House staff lists as a part-time employee.
Each U.S. House member receives a “Members’ Representational Allowance” (MRA), funded by taxpayers in the annual legislative branch appropriation bill. The 2012 allowances per member ranged from $1.27 million to $1.56 million, with an average of $1.35 million, according to the CRS report.
Mulvaney’s chief of staff, Allen Simpson, made $148,137 last year, records show.
Asked if his congressional staff job has ever interfered time-wise with his duties as a state lawmaker, Bedingfield said he works at his congressional job during times when the General Assembly is not in session – usually on Mondays and Fridays during the first six months of the year. He also said he squeezes in his federal work during the afternoons on Tuesdays through Thursdays if there are no state legislative meetings or other related commitments then.
“It’s impossible for anybody to say they made 100 percent of everything,” Bedingfield said when asked about his legislative attendance record, adding, “I’m not a big reception guy. I don’t hit the after-hours things.”
Bedingfield said he rents an apartment in Lancaster, located in the 5th Congressional District and more than 100 miles from his home in southwestern Greenville County, in case he needs to spend the night there during legislative session while handling his congressional responsibilities on the state's northeastern side. He also said he has a "right-hand person I can use to fill for me" when necessary.
When informed that the S.C. Constitution prohibits dual-office holding, Bedingfield said that provision doesn’t apply to him because his congressional job isn’t an elected position. He also said the U.S. House Committee on Ethics informed him before he took his federal job that it wouldn’t violate the U.S. Hatch Act, which generally bans federal employees in the executive branch and certain state and local government workers who are paid with or oversee federal funds from participating in partisan elections.
“My responsibilities in the State House are to the 37,000 people I represent in Greenville County,” Bedingfield said when asked if believed his federal job posed a conflict of interest with his duties as a state lawmaker. “Honestly, when I’m in Columbia, it’s about the interests of the people of South Carolina."
Bedingfield said he abstains from voting on candidates from the 5th Congressional District who seek seats on various state boards.
A review by The Nerve of information provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures on dual-employment laws involving public officials found that at least four states – Kansas, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia – and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban state lawmakers from holding federal jobs.
Investigative reporter Curt Olson and Nerve intern Emily Dawes contributed to this story. Reach Brundrett at (803) 254-4411 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @thenerve_rick. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and Twitter @thenervesc.