News & Politics

Who Are the Wealthiest Members of the Obama Administration?

It’s no surprise that the big money in government is in defense. But monied people seem to go there, too. In the April edition of the magazine, available today, we examine the wealthiest Cabinet secretaries in the Obama administration. According to the financial-disclosure forms of Obama administration figures, though, there are more than a few millionaires in the rest of the team too. In fact, beyond the department heads, four out of ten of the wealthiest Obama appointees are at the Pentagon. One note: The forms required by the government don't include any liabilities that an appointee may have—so these estimates of wealth may be inflated once mortgages and
other unknown charges are included. Based on the disclosures, here’s how the list shakes out:

1. Gary Gensler, head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission: assets of at least $15,533,000, though they could total as much as $61,745,000.
Gensler, a Baltimore native, is a graduate of the Goldman Sachs “School of Making Money,” becoming partner when he was 30 and eventually the company’s cohead of finance.

2. Susan Rice, ambassador to the United Nations: assets of $14,031,000 to $41,265,000.
Thanks to family money, Rice hasn’t had to rely on her $123,460-a-year job at the Brookings Institution—plus an $86,568 director’s fee at BNA, a publisher of information for government and business—to pay the bills. She has between $4 million and $20 million squirreled away in Canadian banks.

3. Jeh Johnson, Defense Department general counsel: assets of $11,237,000 to $51,580,000.
In Johnson’s wedding announcement, the New York Times called him “the most eligible bachelor partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, the New York law firm.” Here’s why: The partnership brought him $2,636,314 in 2008 along with a severance payment between $1 million and $5 million, placing him firmly on the list of Lawyers Taking Absurd Pay Cuts to Work for Obama.

4. Mary Schapiro, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission: assets of $11,139,000 to $41,795,000.
Schapiro, who now has the distinction of serving under five presidents, comes to the SEC from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. According to an SEC spokesman, Schapiro’s severance package from FINRA amounts to $7.2 million; she also received deferred-compensation packages of $675,033 from Kraft Foods and up to $1.5 million from Duke Energy (she was a director at both companies).

5. Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff: assets of $5,023,000 to $13,170,000 in 2007.
According to congressional disclosures, Emanuel made $16.2 million in his 2½ years as an investment banker at Wasserstein Perella, in between advising Bill Clinton and taking Rod Blagojevich’s vacant seat in the 5th District of Illinois—or roughly $740 an hour 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Despite considerable assets, Emanuel is notoriously thrifty when it comes to living arrangements. When in DC, he lives rent-free in a room provided by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.

6. Thomas Perrelli, associate attorney general: assets of $2,322,000 to $5,630,000.
As managing partner of Jenner & Block’s Washington office, where he specialized in copyright and media law, Perrelli made $1,382,760 in 2008. His stock portfolio is relatively diverse, with holdings in everything from soft drinks to cell phones, and he has between $500,000 and $1 million in a Bank of America account.

7. Robert Hale, Defense undersecretary/comptroller: assets between $2,223,000 and $8,120,000.
We hope Hale has a thrifty streak because he will be tasked with reining in Pentagon spending. The American Society of Military Comptrollers paid him $150,000 as executive director in 2008, with an additional bonus of $42,500. His own consulting firm, RFH Consulting, made $8,000.

8. William Lynn, deputy Defense secretary: assets between $2,208,000 and $5,170,000.
Lynn is the much-publicized exception to President Obama’s “no lobbyists” rule. In 2008, Lynn was paid $369,615 as a lobbyist for Raytheon, the Pentagon’s fifth-largest contractor. Last year it received more than $10 billion for missiles and other military apparatus, which makes Lynn’s salary seem like pocket change.

9. Michèle Flournoy, undersecretary of Defense for policy: assets of $2,196,000 to $8,065,000.
Flournoy was cofounder and president of the think tank Center for a New American Security, which paid her $254,820 last year. A consulting partnership with her husband, W. Scott Gould—nominee for deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs—yielded an additional $60,000 from firms such as Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems.

10. James Steinberg, deputy secretary of State: assets of $1,980,000 to $7,475,000.
The son of a jeweler, Steinberg has Harvard and Yale on his résumé along with a deanship at the University of Texas, which paid him $325,000 in salary and bonus in 2008. Steinberg also received consulting fees from the Glover Park Group of $70,000 and speaker honoraria of more than $46,000. In case anyone wonders how well journalism pays these days, Steinberg also received $600 for an article in Newsweek.

11. Ron Kirk, US trade representative: assets of $1,932,000 to $4,855,000.
The former mayor of Dallas is a partner in the law firm Vinson & Elkins, which paid him about $557,000 last year, with a bonus of $150,000, and up to $50,000 in an outstanding-partnership share. Kirk also made a combined $460,865 in 2008 for sitting on the boards of PetSmart, Dean Foods, and Brinker International.

12. Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: assets of $1,907,000 to $4,705,000.
Another academic-turned-political-adviser, Lubchenco made $235,465 last year from Oregon State University along with speaker fees of just over $4,000 and $150,000 as recipient of the Zayed International Prize for the Environment. Who says being green doesn’t pay?

13. Leon Panetta, CIA director: assets of $1,544,000 to $3,860,000.
Panetta made headlines in February when financial-disclosure statements revealed that he’d made about $1 million in speaking, consulting, and director’s fees in 2008, including money from troubled financial firms Merrill Lynch and Wachovia. Panetta also received $60,000 from a maritime-lobbying association and $28,000 in speaking fees from the Carlyle Group, demonstrating once more how lucrative government positions can be once they’re no longer held (see also Clinton, Bill).

14. David Ogden, deputy attorney general: assets of $1,380,000 to $3,550,000.
As a partner at the law firm WilmerHale, Ogden made $1,533,810 in 2008 along with an estimated benefit severance payment of $381,360; his government salary will be less than $200,000 a year.

15. Austan Goolsbee, chief economist, President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board: assets of $1,146,000 to $2,715,000.
University of Chicago economist Goolsbee, who counts conservative columnist George Will among his fans, was paid $465,000 by the University of Chicago last year; additional wages and honoraria totaled $93,000.

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