Congressional Pay Raise Dominated Talk Radio Shows With PM-Pay Raise-States, Bjt
JONATHAN W. OATIS
Feb. 08, 1989
Undated (AP) _ The 51 percent pay raise that Congress wound up rejecting dominated the airwaves around the country, with switchboards at some talk-radio stations lighting up nearly once a minute and practically every caller was against it.
''Since the election, it's been the best issue as far as stirring people up,'' talk-show host Roger Gray of KPRC in Houston said Tuesday.
''And it's almost unanimously negative. I think today we got one caller in support. But callers like that are in the distinct minority.''
Responding to the outcry against the proposed pay hike, Congress voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to reject it, then rushed the legislation to President Bush, who signed it hours before a midnight deadline.
Rep. Vic Fazio, a pay raise defender, chided House colleagues for not having ''the courage to speak out'' in their own defense. ''We became cartoon cannon fodder for trash television and talk radio,'' the California Democrat complained.
''This wasn't artificially created,'' said talk-radio host Mike Siegel of station KING in Seattle, who ran his show from Washington, D.C., last week and testified before a Senate committee on the pay raise. ''The lines were flooded every day.''
Siegel urged listeners to write and call representatives to express opposition to the proposal, and was part of a network of stations nationwide that suggested sending lawmakers tea bags symbolic of the Boston Tea Party.
''Everybody's thrilled'' by Tuesday's vote, said Cindy Slay, producer of the Jim Eason talk show at KGO in San Francisco. ''I get maybe one call out of 50 who say they were for the pay raise.''
Slay said the show, which is on weekdays from 2-4 p.m., received about 50 calls per hour, or nearly one a minute, on the issue.
Several callers to KGO thanked talk-show hosts and activists such as Ralph Nader for drawing attention to the issue, Slay said.
''The credit should go to the outraged citizenry who mailed in tea bags and truckloads of letters and who complained and made phone calls,'' said Eason.
In Baltimore, WBAL talk-show host Ron Smith said, ''People were just very gratified, amazed and delighted that they made this effort against the odds and that they actually achieved something.''
He said 80 to 90 percent of his callers expressed outrage at the pay raise's size, its timing and the original plan for it to have taken effect automatically.
In Washington, callers to WWRC expressed happiness that the pay raise had been turned down, said producer Lori Madock,
''Our lines are going crazy,'' she said, noting that the station's nine telephone lines had been receiving about 25 calls an hour.
''This congressional pay raise is a joke,'' said a caller identifying himself as Jim of Herndon, Va. ''Look at the mess they've made of things.''
But Rita in Bethesda, Md., said she thought the raise should have been approved. ''These people (who oppose the raise) seem to think that's a tremendous amount of money and it isn't,'' she said.
In Phoenix, KTAR News Director Preston Westmoreland said so many callers opposed the plan because ''people feel that with the economic troubles of today and the budget deficit that you just have no business giving yourself a 50 percent pay raise.''
Of the dozen people who called Pittsburgh's KDKA on Tuesday, ''the overriding message now that it's done is 'Let's find out who supported it and vote them out of office,''' said producer Greg Jena.
Among those taking heavy fire were House Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas, who initially had planned to let the increase take effect automatically today without a House vote.
''I'm very disgusted in Jim Wright,'' said one caller to KLIF-AM in Fort Worth, which Wright represents. ''I'm going to work as hard as I can to get him out of office.''