Like most people, I'll admit to having done some questionable things in my life. As evidence, my father used to tell me that I served a longer apprenticeship as a young idiot than most people.
But I can safely say that at no time as a paid employee of anyone, did I ever ask for a raise and a promotion at a time when management was questioning my ability to do the job.
Harvey Pitt, the current chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, did just that last week when he not only requested a 21-percent pay raise to $166,700, elevation of his post to a Cabinet rank position and also elevation of the regulator to what is known in Beltway circles as a "level one" agency. Now from what I’m told, level one agencies in Washington include such august bodies as the Federal Reserve and the Social Security Administration. The SEC currently is a level three organization, which is on par with such groups as the Federal Communications Commission and the Small Business Administration.
To Pitt’s requests, the chief executive of the United States gently said, "Nope."
Now let’s be honest. Who of Pitt's pedigree becomes chairman of the SEC for the money? As a private securities lawyer, Pitt probably made more in a month than the annual wages of $138,200 he currently earns in his SEC post. So a request for a pay hike of nearly $30,000 would seem odd, especially to lawmakers such as Sen. Tom Daschle, S.D., whose Republican-bashing vernacular cloyingly parrots the "Pitt must resign" caw.
Factor into that, Pitt’s request coincided with the scramble for the House and Senate to hammer out a compromise accounting reform bill -- not exactly the most opportune time to ask your boss for a little extra on the 15th and the 30th of each month.
To be fair, Pitt’s requests for a pay raise and promotion were among a half-dozen "wish list" requests the regulator submitted, when it was asked to list what it would have like to see in the final reform bill.
The SEC’s director of communications (a contradiction in terms if there ever was one – just try getting them to return a phone call or interview request – but that’s fodder for another column) said "Money was not the motivating factor" in Pitt’s laundry list.
It may not have been, but the timing was at best questionable and at worst, terrible. With the final reform bill now awaiting GWB’s signature, Messr. Pitt would be wise to exercise patience before he asks for a pay raise. Otherwise, he may join other unfortunate legions in having to phone in every Sunday night to the D.C. unemployment office.
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