When times are bad, it’s tempting to question the pay stubs of the rich and famous. How could executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac earn tens of millions as they steered their companies—and the country—onto rocky shoals? Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas has spent nearly two years on the bench—he wears nice suits, but is he worth one of the NBA’s biggest salaries?
Here are some of the fattest paychecks in Washington. Figures are the most recent available.
Titans of Industry
“What’s in your wallet?”
That’s what McLean credit-card giant Capital One asks in its television ads. But turn the question on company CEO Richard Fairbank. In the five years prior to 2008 and the infusion of billions of federal bailout money to CapOne, Fairbank earned nearly $380 million—the country’s sixth-highest payout to a public-company CEO, according to Forbes. Fairbank hasn’t taken a salary or bonus since 1997 but has been rewarded with stock and stock options.
Other Washington execs with five-year compensation packages that landed them on Forbes’s 2008 list of top-earning CEOs: Nicholas Chabraja, General Dynamics, $141 million (18th on the Forbes list); Bill Marriott, Marriott International, $118 million (27th); Dale Wolf, former CEO of Coventry Health Care, $62 million (88th); Robert Stevens, Lockheed Martin, $59 million (95th); Lawrence Culp, Danaher, $49 million (113th).
Two-year compensation for other CEOs (as reported by the companies in 2008 SEC filings and including salary, bonus, stock, and stock-option awards but not the value of exercised stock options, if any):
Martine Rothblatt, United Therapeutics, $31.6 million; Malon Wilkus, American Capital, $20.8 million; Craig Dubow, Gannett, $15.7 million; Paul Hanrahan, AES, $14.1 million; Charles Ledsinger, Choice Hotels, $11.8 million; David Schaeffer, Cogent Communications, $13.8 million; Dennis Wraase, Pepco, $13.4 million; Mihael Polymeropoulos, Vanda Pharmaceuticals, $11.9 million.
Pay for executives of troubled companies drew howls of outrage. The year before the government took over operations, Fannie Mae paid CEO Daniel Mudd $12 million and Freddie Mac doled out $18 million to CEO Richard Syron.
How Much by the Hour?
The Obama Justice Department is filling up with lawyers from white-shoe firms and other companies, and their financial-disclosure reports offer a rare look at the paychecks of top legal eagles.
In 2008, Eric Holder collected more than $3.3 million from Covington & Burling, where he handled such clients as the National Football League, Yahoo, and Pfizer. David Ogden, Holder’s deputy attorney general and a former partner with WilmerHale, earned more than $1.5 million.
Lanny Breuer, who’ll head up the criminal division at Justice, reported nearly $2.4 million in pay and deferred compensation from Covington & Burling. Christine Varney, Obama’s pick as antitrust chief, pulled down at least $1.5 million as head of Hogan & Hartson’s Internet group. She also moonlighted as a director for Ryder and for Exclusive Resorts, AOL guru Steve Case’s vacation-resort company, collecting $500,000 in cash, stock, and restricted stock from the two companies.
Greg Craig, Obama’s White House counsel, made $1.7 million at Williams & Connolly.
Legal Times reported last year that revenues for the top 20 Washington firms exceeded $5 billion for the first time. Skadden, Arps—home of rainmaker Robert Bennett—topped the trade paper’s salary survey, paying partners an average of $2.3 million.
Others: Latham & Watkins, $2 million per partner; Covington & Burling, $1.2 million; WilmerHale (home to former solicitor general Seth Waxman), $1.1 million. Six firms rang in at $1 million—Hogan & Hartson; Steptoe & Johnson; Finnegan, Henderson; Williams & Connolly (Brendan Sullivan and Bob Barnett); Sidley Austin; and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.
Federal judges are the paupers of Washington’s legal establishment. Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts makes $217,400; other Supreme Court justices earn $208,100. Federal trial judges take home $169,300—about what first-year associates make at top DC firms.
Roberts lobbies Congress for raises and once warned of a “constitutional crisis” if pay didn’t increase to attract top-notch judges. But he’s been denied several times.
Clarence Thomas supplements his Supreme Court pay with cash from his best-selling memoir, My Grandfather’s Son. Between 2003 and 2007, when the book was published, he collected $1.2 million from a reported $1.5-million advance.
One perk of office: At least five of the justices have honorary memberships at country or social clubs. John Paul Stevens belongs to four, the memberships valued at nearly $18,000. Stevens, Antonin Scalia, and Anthony Kennedy can play a few rounds at Washington Golf and Country Club in Arlington. Scalia and Kennedy could also join Roberts and Ruth Bader Ginsburg for drinks at the University Club in DC.
In 2000, Dan Snyder, in his second year as Redskins owner, assembled a roster with a $100-million payroll, thought at the time to be the most expensive team in sports history.
Almost a decade later, he’s throwing down $100 million on a single player—Albert Haynesworth, the defensive tackle the Skins signed for seven years in February. The $14-million-a-year deal for the oft-injured, tempestuous Haynesworth makes him Washington’s second-highest-paid athlete—behind the oft-injured, tempestuous Gilbert Arenas, who landed an $18.5-million-a-year deal with the Wizards in 2008.
The Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin, the best player in pro hockey, makes about $10 million a year—a princely sum in the NHL but merely the going rate for solid Major League Baseball players such as Adam Dunn, the high-strikeout slugger signed in February by the Nationals for two years and $20 million.
Other big tickets:
Redskins (salaries for 2008): Clinton Portis, $10.4 million, and Chris Cooley, $11.7 million (both figures include signing bonuses for new contracts); Jon Jansen, $5.1 million; Chris Samuels, $4.5 million; Santana Moss, $3.2 million; Jason Campbell, $1.2 million.
Nationals (salaries for 2009): Cristian Guzman and Austin Kearns, $8 million; Nick Johnson, $5.5 million; Dmitri Young, $5 million; Ryan Zimmerman, $3.3 million (up from $465,000 in 2008).
Wizards (salaries averaged over length of contract): Antawn Jamison, $12.5 million; Caron Butler, $8.1 million; Etan Thomas, $7.1 million.
Capitals (salaries averaged over length of contract): Michael Nylander, $5.5 million; Alexander Semin, $4.2 million.
In college athletics, basketball is king when it comes to salaries. John Thompson III at Georgetown made $664,000 in 2007—more than his boss, university president John DeGioia, and all but a handful of college presidents in the area. Karl Hobbs, George Washington University’s longtime basketball coach, made $509,000—$100,000 more than the dean of GW’s medical school. George Mason coach Jim Larranaga, who landed a new contract after his team’s Cinderella appearance in the 2006 Final Four, pulled in $489,000.
The $382,000 base salary paid the University of Maryland’s Gary Williams in 2008 was the highest salary on campus next to president Dan Mote’s, according to data collected by the Diamondback, the student newspaper. Williams’s pay also topped the $366,000 salary of athletic director Debbie Yow. Brenda Frese, who took her women’s basketball team to the NCAA championship in 2006, made $300,000—more than football coach Ralph Friedgen, who earned $244,136. James Franklin, Friedgen’s offensive coordinator and successor, made $285,000—$40,000 more than his boss.
At Maryland, the head coaches for men’s and women’s lacrosse as well as track and field hockey all make more than $100,000, as do seven assistant coaches.
Others: Luciano Emilio, DC United’s best-paid player, $758,857; Dominic McGuire, the Wizards’ lowest-paid player, $711,517; American University basketball coach Jeff Jones, $266,467 (2007); George Mason women’s-basketball coach Jeri Porter, $185,000; Maryland assistant basketball coach Chuck Driesell, $95,663; Jarnell Bonds, head coach of Maryland’s competitive cheer team, $48,470.
In its annual survey of executive salaries at trade and professional associations, CEO Update, an independent publication covering the sector, found that more than 40 percent of the roughly 300 Washington groups surveyed paid their CEOs at least $500,000 in 2007. More than 50 top execs took $1 million or more in salary, deferred compensation, and other benefits.
The biggest moneymaker: Thomas Kuhn of the Edison Electric Institute, a DC-based association of shareholder-owned electric companies. Kuhn earned $4 million (including $1.5 million in benefits and/or deferred compensation). Right behind Kuhn: the US Chamber of Commerce’s Thomas Donohue, who pulled in $3.2 million.
At least a dozen former politicos with deep Washington connections command $1 million or more in pay: Kyle McSlarrow, National Cable and Telecommunications Association, $2.2 million; Frank Fahrenkopf, American Gaming Association, $2 million; Billy Tauzin, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, $2 million; Dave McCurdy, Alliance of American Automobile Manufacturers, $1.8 million; Frank Keating, American Council of Life Insurers, $1.5 million; Steve Bartlett, Financial Services Roundtable, $1.4 million; Glenn English, National Rural Electric Cooperative, $1.4 million; John Engler, National Association of Manufacturers, $1.3 million; Dan Glickman, Motion Picture Association of America, $1.3 million; Bobby Koch (son-in-law of former President George H.W. Bush), Wine Institute, $1.1 million; Steve Largent, International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry (CTIA), $1.1 million; James Greenwood, Biotechnology Industry Association, $1 million.
Others: John Castellani, Business Roundtable, $2.3 million; Edward Yingling, American Bankers Association, $2.1 million; Karen Ignagni, America’s Health Insurance Plans, $1.6 million; Mitch Bainwol, Recording Industry Association of America, $1.5 million; Wayne LaPierre, National Rifle Association, $731,184.
Compensation (including benefits and deferred compensation) for heads of think tanks: Edwin Feulner, Heritage Foundation, $900,814; Walter Isaacson, Aspen Institute, $871,784; Ed Crane, Cato Institute, $864,568; Chris DeMuth, former head of the American Enterprise Institute, $713,184; Jessica Mathews, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, $451,256; Strobe Talbott, Brookings Institution, $420,282; John Hamre, CSIS $420,282; John Podesta, Center for American Progress, $312,097.
Among the top-paid thinker/pundits: Ed Meese, Heritage, $373,265; Martin Indyk, Brookings, $274,350; Richard Danzig, CSIS consultancy, $252,000; Bruce Katz, Brookings, $251,873; Thomas Mann, Brookings, $245,182; Thomas Carothers, Carnegie Endowment, $234,408; David Boaz, Cato, $228,373; John Bolton, AEI, $207,394.
Down but Not Out
Obama’s victory may have represented change to voters, but it means a lot less spare change for many of his appointees. The top pay for White House aides is $172,200; Cabinet secretaries make $196,700.
Larry Summers, Obama’s top economic adviser, collected about $5.2 million from a New York hedge fund in a little more than a year before joining the administration. He also pulled in $2.7 million in speaking fees.
Mary Schapiro, who left the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority to become head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, gave up a compensation package worth $2.75 million in 2008. Ron Kirk, Obama’s US trade representative, made $556,740 at his Dallas law firm plus nearly $500,000 in fees from sitting on corporate boards.
Academics signing on with Obama are giving up tidy sums, too. Deputy secretary of State James Steinberg pulled in nearly $470,000 as dean of the University of Texas school of public affairs and from speaking, writing, and consulting. Solicitor general Elena Kagan was making$437,000 as dean of Harvard Law School.
Others: Senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, who in 16 months received $1.2 million in salary and deferred compensation from a Chicago real-estate developer and management firm as well as director’s fees from several boards; social secretary Desiree Rogers, who made more than $500,000 as Allstate’s head of social networking and from serving on boards; Christina Romer, head of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, $231,998 as a professor at the University of California at Berkeley; Bill Lynn, the top aide at the department of Defense, $370,000 as a lobbyist for Raytheon.
On the other side of their government service, Obama aides stand to claim a pot of gold through speeches, books, and lobbying. Tom Daschle made more than $5 million in the two years prior to his aborted nomination to join Obama’s Cabinet.
Books and Bucks
John Casteen, who has headed the University of Virginia for nearly 20 years, earns more money than all but two other public-university presidents in the country, according to the most recent salary survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education. In 2007, Casteen’s compensation package totaled $797,048. He also took home $85,000 in cash and $157,500 in stock awards as a board director for Wachovia.
That same year, then–George Washington University president Stephen Trachtenberg collected $798,827. Another president in the Chronicle survey who’s moved on: Howard’s Patrick Swygert ($553,534).
Pay (including benefits and deferred compensation) in 2007 for other college chiefs: John DeGioia, Georgetown, $591,617; Cornelius Kerwin, American University, $573,306; Alan Merten, George Mason, $564,770; Dan Mote, University of Maryland, $463,213; Very Reverend David O’Connell, Catholic, $307,790; Robert Davila, Gallaudet, $292,150; Robert Templin, Northern Virginia Community College, $268,911; Charlene Drew Jarvis, Southeastern University, $228,542; Pat McGuire, Trinity University, $191,470.
Others in higher education: Robert Silberman, CEO of Strayer Education, $8 million; Donald Lindsey, George Washington University chief investment officer, $756,966; Lawrence Kochard, Georgetown chief investment officer, $629,277.
The job of K-12 superintendent—once a sinecure for educators who’d climbed from teacher to principal to administrator—has become a high-profile position with a fat paycheck. The Washington Post last year surveyed salaries of area school chiefs and found that 10 of 12 made more than $200,000. A decade ago, none made that much.
Total 2007 compensation—including salary, bonus, deferred compensation, and insurance and other expenses—for area schools chiefs, according to the Post:
Jerry Weast, Montgomery County, $489,763; John Deasy, former superintendent in Prince George’s County, $424,080; Jack Dale, Fairfax County, $419,612; Steven Walts, Prince William County, $372,488; Michelle Rhee, DC, $356,341; Edgar Hatrick, Loudoun County, $341,531; Robert Smith, Arlington County, $329,009; Sydney Cousin, Howard County, $291,577.
Heads of local private schools can make even more than public-school superintendents. Some of the top earners (when factoring in benefits and deferred compensation) include Rob Hershey, Episcopal, $518,996; Peter Branch, Georgetown Day, $407,584; Jonathan Cannon, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, $401,476; Geoff Jones, Potomac, $368,854; Dick Ewing, Norwood, $330,843; Marjo Talbott, Maret, $334,662; Elisabeth Griffith, Madeira, $334,087; David Armstrong, Landon, $334,058; Susanna Jones, Holton-Arms, $313,284; Tom Farquhar, Bullis, $298,607; John Thomas, Flint Hill, $266,866; Robert Kosasky, St. Andrew’s, $237,600; Mary Louise Leipheimer, Foxcroft, $200,539; Thomas Northrup, Hill School, $158,400.
Schools with religious affiliations, such as St. Albans and Sidwell Friends, are not required to file the IRS forms that include salary information.
The Smithsonian is whacking executive salaries following revelations of wretched excess at the top. Internal and congressional investigators found that Secretary Lawrence Small was making more than $900,000 a year and charging the institution for housekeeping and repairs to his home swimming pool. More than 20 Smithsonian employees, including many museum directors, earned more than $200,000 a year. Small resigned, and his replacement, G. Wayne Clough, signed for about $500,000 a year.
Among his top-earning colleagues in the culture-and-museum world (based on salary, benefits, and deferred compensation): Earl “Rusty” Powell, National Gallery of Art, $920,188; Sara Bloomfield, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, $545,900; Charles Overby, Freedom Forum/Newseum, $443,705; Jay Gates, Phillips Collection, $399,209; Paul Greenhalgh, Corcoran Gallery of Art, $280,561; Chase Rynd, National Building Museum, $242,735.
Christoph Eschenbach, the new director of the National Symphony Orchestra, made $2.3 million a year while with the Philadelphia Orchestra—about $1.1 million more than what Leonard Slatkin, the NSO’s departing leader, earned.
Slatkin apparently was the best-paid official in Washington’s performing-arts circles. Other top earners: Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser, $1,058,560; Wolf Trap Foundation CEO Terrence Jones, $497,364; Washington Performing Arts Society president Neale Perl, $358,881; Shakespeare Theatre head Michael Kahn, $344,030; Ford’s Theatre producing director Paul Tetreault, $294,166; NSO concertmaster Nurit Bar-Josef, $280,560; Arena Stage artistic director Molly Smith, $203,369; Washington Ballet artistic director Septime Webre, $182,500; Strathmore CEO Eliot Pfanstiehl, $218,006; Signature Theatre artistic director Eric Schaeffer, $110,210; Studio Theatre president Joy Zinoman, $105,901; Fairfax Symphony director William Hudson, $79,632.
In 2007, with new leadership taking over the company he founded, Discovery Communications chair John Hendricks made $58 million, mostly in stock grants. His new CEO, David Zaslav, collected $19 million.
Those pay packages make them Washington’s biggest media barons. Craig Dubow, head of Gannett, collected $7.5 million that year. Washington Post Company head Don Graham has made the same $400,000 salary for the past 18 years. He gets an occasional bonus—$400,000 in 2008—and he’s still one of the nation’s lowest-paid big-media executives. But no sympathy needed: He owns lots of Post Company stock.
Graham’s niece Katharine Weymouth went on the Post Company’s payroll last year as the newspaper’s publisher and made $500,000 plus a $33,274 bonus. Lally Weymouth, Katharine’s mother and Don’s sister, earned $249,746 as an editor-at-large at Newsweek.
In preparation for contract talks, the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild released salary ranges for various jobs at the Post. Of the 490 unionized employees in the newsroom, 157 make $100,000 or more. The highest-paid: one of the paper’s editorial writers, who pulls in as much as $189,999. The only “artist” on the guild list (probably Tom Toles) makes between $170,000 and $179,999. Three Post critics pull in $150,000 to $159,999.
Others in the media: MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, $5 million; WETA CEO Sharon Percy Rockefeller, $400,749; Carey Winfrey, editor, Smithsonian magazine, $380,609; NPR hosts Robert Siegel ($350,288), Renee Montagne ($332,160), and Steve Inskeep ($331,242).
Doing Good, Doing Well?
Pay (including benefits and deferred compensation) for heads of national associations and nonprofit organizations: Brian Gallagher, United Way of America, $918,835; Michael Lomax, United Negro College Fund, $622,473; Richard Moe, National Trust for Historic Preservation; $503,523; Michael Jacobson, Center for Science in the Public Interest, $241,363; Timothy Shriver, Special Olympics, $159,172. Israel Gaither, Salvation Army, $125,088; Marian Wright Edelman, Children’s Defense Fund, $103,718.
Heads of local nonprofits: Julie Rogers, Meyer Foundation, $387,688; Edward Orzechowski, Catholic Charities, $268,000; Terri Freeman, Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, $221,485; Chris Miller, Piedmont Environmental Council, $210,000; Jan Verhage, Girl Scout Council, $191,400; Will Baker, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, $187,203.
Pay (including benefits and deferred compensation) for top executives of local hospitals and health-care systems: Edwin Zechman, Children’s National Medical Center, $2.2 million; Brian Gragnolati, Suburban, $1.3 million; J. Knox Singleton, Inova, $1.3 million; William Robertson, Washington Adventist, $981,028; Joy Drass, Georgetown University Medical Center, $886,116; John Williams, George Washington University Medical Center, $709,005; Dunlop Ecker, Dimensions Healthcare System (Prince George’s Hospital Center, Laurel Regional Hospital), $486,890; James Cole, Virginia Hospital Center, $483,649.
Among the top physician salaries: Howard Federoff, Georgetown medical-school dean, $687,101; Samir Fakhry, trauma chief, Inova Fairfax, $636,068; Barry Byer, chief of family medicine, Virginia Hospital Center, $422,995; Victor R. Gordeuk, director of Howard University’s Center for Sickle Cell Disease, $450,469; Wayne Frederick, Howard University Hospital chief of surgery, $397,262; Alessandro Ghidini, director of Inova Alexandria’s Perinatal Diagnostic Center, $366,577.
Editorial intern Sonia Harmon contributed research to this article. Salary information for nonprofits come from their most recent IRS filings available, usually for the 2007 fiscal year. The figures include deferred compensation, which is not always paid in the year it’s reported. Other salary sources include media reports, financial-disclosure filings by elected and appointed officials, and SEC filings by public companies.
This article first appeared in the May 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.