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#RealScandal Episode 1: Equal Pay

September 26, 2014 | Francoise Stovall

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Hello Gladiators!

Scandal was back last night and between Liv requesting rare French wine on a desert island and Papa Pope just generally being Papa Pope, one of the main story lines revolved around the president trying to pass a bipartisan equal pay bill.

Equal pay for equal work makes a lot of sense, of course, and the episode got us thinking about why we can’t seem to achieve equal pay here in the real world. There has been some legislative progress, especially the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which expanded the ability of women to sue their employers for pay discrimination. But the fact remains that on average, women earn 77 percent of what men earn, and bills like the recent Paycheck Fairness Act of 2014 keep failing.

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Usually when a commonsense idea that would benefit a majority of the population can’t find traction in Congress, there’s some big money behind it. And sure enough, we found this letter from two weeks ago urging Senators to vote no on the Paycheck Fairness Act. The letter is signed by 24 organizations, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Restaurant Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which, when combined, are throwing around some serious political cash. This cycle alone, these 24 organizations have given at least $6,089,372 directly to political candidates and parties (84 percent of which flows to Republican candidates), not including independent expenditures — which account for millions more. They’ve also spent a combined $185,022,768 on lobbying this cycle. Is it any wonder that the Paycheck Fairness Act of 2014 fell eight votes shy of the 60 vote threshold, and failed to get even a single Republican vote?

In the Scandalverse, a senator sends her attractive intern to the home of another senator in the hopes of winning his vote in favor of equal pay. But the real scandal is that senators don’t even have to stoop so low — in reality, they are inundated with so many lobbyists and so much political cash that there’s no swaying them to do what’s right for working families.

All expenditure figures are from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Francoise Stovall

Francoise Stovall is the digital director at Every Voice.

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