Marshall campaign doesn’t offer health benefits to staff

The bulk of Kansas Republican Rep. Roger Marshall’s Senate campaign team have health insurance because of the law their boss and other Republicans have repeatedly sought to repeal.

Marshall’s campaign staff are independent contractors rather than employees. It means that the campaign does not have to pay thousands in payroll taxes on their salaries or provide them health benefits.

But because most of them are 26 or younger, they can stay on their parents’ health insurance plans under a provision in the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

Eric Pahls, Marshall’s campaign manager, said despite not offering health benefits the campaign works “with each team member to make sure they have what they need for health care, housing and transportation. We’re proud of our team, and glad to compensate them for their hard work.”

For the most part, the members of Marshall’s campaign team have simply remained on their parents’ plans, an easy option in the absence of employee health benefits.

But the provision that allows them and other young people across the country to do this could be struck down if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Kansas and other states challenging the Affordable Care Act in a case that is set for oral arguments the week after the election.

Marshall, a GOP congressman and physician who represents western Kansas, opposed a House resolution this year urging the Trump administration to drop its support of the lawsuit against the ACA and has repeatedly voted to repeal the measure.

“Dr. Marshall has always supported keeping folks on their parents’ plan through age 26,” Pahls said when asked about the campaign’s reliance on the federal health care law.

Pahls noted that the policy of allowing people to stay on their parental plans through 26 has been included in Republican proposals to replace the ACA, which Marshall has supported.

Marshall is facing off in the open seat Senate race against Barbara Bollier, a Democratic state senator who has focused her campaign on health care.

Federal Election Commission records show Bollier’s campaign is paying for staff health coverage and taxes on payroll.

Bollier’s campaign paid more than $28,000 to the Florida-based firm Payroll Data Processing to handle its payroll taxes for the first two weeks of July and paid more than $3,200 to UnitedHealth group during the same period, according to her most recent filing.

Alexandra De Luca, Bollier’s spokeswoman, criticized Marshall for structuring his campaign in a way that allows him to avoid payroll taxes.

“We are glad to see Marshall’s campaign taking advantage of the Affordable Care Act. Health care is important for all Kansans, especially during a pandemic! We just wish he would pay payroll taxes like other businesses are required to. These taxes help fund Social Security and support our seniors,” De Luca said in a statement.

Pahls, who is paid as a consultant, said the campaign’s decision to employ team members as independent contractors is a common practice.

“As is the case with many campaigns, we hire a lot of students who want to be engaged over summer break,” Pahls said in an email. “Our arrangement gives them the opportunity to work other jobs or even to help other campaigns. When they went back to school, some left entirely, and some are still helping in their spare time.”

However, a review of campaign finance filings of other Republican Senate campaigns in 10 of this year’s most closely contested states shows that Marshall is alone among GOP Senate nominees in not paying payroll taxes.

Campaigns commonly use consultants, but they also commonly have employees and pay taxes on their payroll.

North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, for example, paid more than $12,500 in federal payroll taxes and nearly $1,900 in state payroll taxes for the month of June alone, according to FEC records.

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Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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