Dozens of WH senior staffers making six-figure salaries amid sequester woes

Published March 11, 2013

| FoxNews.com

After closing the doors to public tours in an effort to save money, White House officials haven't yet said if sequester cuts will result in furloughs or layoffs for its senior staffers -- as is happening with rank-and-file in other executive branch agencies. 

But there are dozens of senior employees and other presidential "assistants" to choose from if the administration were to look at cutting the six-figure salaries from its payroll. 

In the field of energy and climate change alone, President Obama in 2012 employed three advisers making at least $100,000 -- though one has since left. 

The president kept on staff a "deputy assistant" for energy and climate change, Heather Zichal, making $140,000; a "special assistant" for energy and environment, Nathaniel Keohane; and a "deputy director" for energy and climate change, Dan Utech. 

Together, their salaries totaled over $370,000 last year, according to White House records. 

Climate blogger Steven Goddard said it's unlikely the administration will scale back its circle of advisers, at least on this issue. 

"It's a very important point to his political base," Goddard said. "Whether he believes it or not himself, he has to make the effort to appear that he's working on controlling the climate." 

Zichal, who previously worked in the 2008 Obama campaign, during the president's first term helped craft administration policy on fuel economy standards and mercury pollution regulations. Keohane worked via his post on the White House Domestic Policy Council. Keohane left the White House last year to join the Environmental Defense Fund. 

The White House is being scrutinized after a decision -- driven in large part by Secret Service staffing considerations -- to end public tours of the "people's house." That decision took effect this past weekend, outraging lawmakers and spurned tourists alike. 

While that decision freed up money in the Secret Service budget, some are waiting to see what the White House will do to show sacrifice on its end. 

The latest 2012 salary figures released by the White House show 20 staffers were making the maximum $172,200. Many of them are well-known President Obama aides, including Press Secretary Jay Carney and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. Most carry the title of "assistant to the president." 

But underneath them are dozens of "deputy" assistants and "special" assistants to the president, most making six-figure salaries -- like the climate change advisers. A review of the 2012 salaries by FoxNews.com shows 139 White House staffers making $100,000 or more. 

The White House often attracts top-tier lawyers, bankers, security experts and others who were making far more in the private sector. Any administration wants to offer good money in order to lure the right people into -- or back into -- public service. 

But the payroll under the Obama White House has expanded since the Bush administration. The payroll went from $33 million in 2008 to $39 million in 2009. Since then, the Obama administration has scaled back its White House staff expenses, but the payroll was still at $37.8 million in 2012. 

There are two more employees making the maximum salary now than in the final year of the Bush administration. Two ethics advisers each make close to $140,000. 

The chief calligrapher makes $96,725. Another calligrapher makes over $94,000, while another makes close to $86,000. 

On Friday, White House Deputy Press Secretary John Earnest said the White House will be affected by the sequester much like other agencies -- and in some capacity will impose furloughs. 

"We're also faced with making some tough decisions when it comes to ongoing projects, when it comes to purchasing equipment and supplies. But we're also a pretty personnel-heavy agency, if you will. So that means ... there will be employees of components who work here at the White House that will be facing pay cuts, that will be facing furloughs," he said.

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