White House salaries: Whose check is biggest?

In most organizations, the salary list is a tightly guarded secret. But in President Obama’s White House, it is posted on the website.

For the Washington obsessed, the information posted Wednesday afternoon is full of fascinating factoids.

For example, the best known aides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, senior adviser David Axelrod, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs – are not the best paid. That distinction goes to David Marcozzi, the president’s director of public health policy, who makes $192,934 a year. His home agency is the Department of Health and Human Services and he is a “detailee” at the White House.

The lofty "assistant to" title

After Mr. Marcozzi, the next best paid are National Security Adviser James Jones and 21 who carry the title Assistant to the President. Members of this group – including Messrs Emanuel, Axelrod, Gibbs – make $172,200. That is the same salary as former President Bush’s top aides. Mr. Obama promised to freeze White House salaries above $100,000 when he came into office, paying his top staffers staff at the same level as President Bush in his final year.

Total salary cost comparisons between the Obama and Bush White Houses are difficult, because President Obama has released more information on compensation than his predecessor. He also appears to have a bigger staff than Bush. Hotline’s On Call blog calculates that the Obama administration is spending about $5.1 million more on staff in 2009 than the Bush administration did in 2008.

Working for the love of it

At the low end, two staffers are listed as receiving no pay. They are Michael Warren, a senior adviser for economics in the department of personnel, and Patricia McGinnis, who is listed simply as an adviser. For those who are being paid, the lowest salary is $36,000.

The $172,200 assistant to the president pay level goes to individuals with a wide range of experience, the Washington Post notes. They range in age from 28-year-old Jonathan Favreau, the president's director of speechwriting to Mr. Jones, a 66-year-old retired general.

It pays to work for the president

And, not surprisingly, who you work for makes a difference in your paycheck. The press secretary to First Lady Michelle Obama is paid $80,000. The press secretary to the President makes $172,200 and Gibbs's deputies make $113,000.

Many White House workers labor long hours for modest pay in return for the thrill of being where the action is. As Michael Shear writes in the Washington Post’s “44” blog, “The vast bulk of the employees appear to earn between $40,000 and $55,000 per year, making the White House quite a modestly paid enterprise for most of the workaholics who spend time there.”

The president himself makes $400,000. The vice president, $227,300.

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