Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, supplemented his income by $208,750 during the past five years through honorariums, the fees for giving speeches to interest groups.
The amount, which averages to $41,750 a year, was the third highest kept by any senator.Meanwhile, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, earned the fourth most of any senator in honorariums in that period - $351,038. But he donated three-fifths of it to charity, keeping only $137,165. That ranks him 24th among any senator serving in that time period.
The watchdog group Common Cause released those figures Friday in a study to help support its claims that congressmen depend heavily on honorariums to make ends meet - which may allow special interest groups to have too much influence on them. The group also renewed its call for a ban on honorariums.
"Honoraria fees have become a special interest annuity for many members of the Senate," said Common Cause President Fred Wertheimer.
"Common Cause supports increases in pay for members of the Congress and other top-level government officials. Common Cause also said that regardless of what happens on the salary issue, the totally discredited honoraria fee system must be ended quickly. Congress must move quickly to ban the acceptance of honoraria fees," he said.
Actually, the Senate voted on Feb. 2 to ban honorariums - but only if the then-proposed 51-percent pay hike took effect. When that pay hike was killed Tuesday, the ban on Senate honorariums also died.
Wertheimer said Sen. William Armstrong, R-Colo., captured what he sees as irony in the Senate action when he said during debate, "What I cannot really fathom is the new notion introduced by this resolution, which is that (honorariums) is morally right and ethical at one salary level but reprehensible and to be precluded at another salary level."
Both Garn and Hatch have defended the honorarium system on numerous occasions and have said they prefer it to the large pay increase that was defeated. They say honorariums do not cost taxpayers anything and that interest groups do not really buy any influence with their speech fees.
"They only have you talk if you already agree with them, or already oppose them. Ted Kennedy (Hatch's nemesis) and I often speak to the same groups," Hatch has said.
He adds that it is "pure bunk" to think a senator's vote could be bought for a $2,000 speech fee - the highest allowed per speech.
Also of interest in the Common Cause study was that, not surprisingly, the less wealthy members of the Senate tended to keep more honorariums than the multimillionaires, who kept virtually none.
For example, billionaire Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.V., kept absolutely no honorariums in the past five years. Millionaire Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., kept only $4,150.
Also of note for contrast, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., kept the most honorariums of any senator in the five years - $238,076. Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole earned the most - $658,464 - but gave more than two-thirds of it to charity.