By Adam Andrzejewski | Published at OpenTheBooks.Substack
White House payroll approaches all-time high set in his first year
During President Joe Biden’s first three years, he spent $158.8 million on the largest White House payroll in American history, based on headcount. White House staff for FY2023 collectively cost $52,775,234.
No White House ever employed 500 staffers until Biden became president. The Biden White House employed 560 in FY2021 and 474 in FY2022. In 2023, the headcount increased by 50, to 524.
Biden employs 108 more staffers than Trump (416) (FY2019) and 70 more than Obama (454) (FY2011) at the same point in their respective presidencies.
There was 46% turnover in White House staff, year over year. 220 employees from last year are no longer on payroll. Last year the turnover rate was 39%.
The turnover in Biden's third year is 10% higher than the 36% turnover in 2019, Trump's third year.
Jill Biden’s staff more than doubled from last year (8) to 20 this year.
Today, the Biden administration released its annual report to Congress on the White House Office Personnel. The payroll data includes employee name, status, salary, and position title for all White House employees as of June 30, 2023.
Search all White House payrolls from 2009 through 2023 including Obama, Trump, and Biden administration payrolls posted at OpenTheBooks.com.
Download a free copy of our OpenTheBooks Oversight Report – White House Payrolls (2009-2021).
The large Biden White House payroll had been a leading indicator of his commitment to expand the federal bureaucracy at all levels. In the first nine days of his presidency, Biden issued many executive orders expanding the size, scope, and power of the federal bureaucracy.
The most highly compensated White House Biden staffer?
The top paid is Demetre C. Daskalakis ($260,718), Deputy Coordinator for the Monkeypox Response. The second most highly paid is Anand H. Das ($216,414), Senior Deputy Associate Counsel. Both were previously stationed at federal agencies (the Center for Disease Control and the Securities and Exchange Commission, respectively), and now serve the White House “on detail.”
The two top-paid employees from last year are not with the administration any longer: Francis S. Collins ($300,000), Acting Science Advisor to the President — and the immediate-former director of the National Institutes of Health; and Luisa M. Paiewonsky ($191,300), Senior Policy Advisor for Transportation.
Other top paid employees include the Biden policy czars.
Biden doesn’t disclose his issue advisors as “czars.” However, he employs 115 special assistants to the president on policies ranging from "criminal justice and guns” to “gender” to “climate” to, separately, climate finance. Last year he employed 91 people with that title.
Special assistant salaries range from $51,500 (15 staffers) to $132,500 (37 staffers). Collectively they make $12.8 million.
In 2021 two Biden White House staffers successfully pitched the Unicode Consortium, the organization that controls the number and design of emojis available on smart phones, to establish a donkey emoji—the symbol of the Democratic Party. Politico dubbed them the “emoji czars.”
Here are some important facts we learned from the payroll release today:
Of the 524 White House staffers, 313 are women. Collectively, the women take home $30.9 million in salaries, with an average salary of $98,868. Men make up 207 of the staffers, collecting $21.5 in salaries, with an average salary of $103,801. Four staffers had gender-ambiguous names and could not be verified.
Biden's White House has 28 “Assistants to the President” – the most trusted advisors to the president. This year, twenty of these advisors make $180,000 and eight make $168,000. Numbers in the higher pay band are similar to Trump (22-23) and Obama (20-24).
This year’s list of key advisors includes names such as Jeff Zients (Chief of Staff), Neera Tanden (Domestic Policy Advisory), Karine Jean-Pierre (Press Secretary), Lael Brainard (Director of the National Economic Council), Benjamin Labolt (Communications Director), Jonathan Finer (Principal Deputy National Security Advisory), and Stuart Delery (Counsel).
In Trump’s third year, Emma Doyle (Principal Deputy Chief of Staff), John Bolton (National Security Affairs), and Peter Navarro (Trade and Manufacturing Policy) and 19 others made salaries of $183,000.
In Obama’s third year, Stephanie Cutter (Deputy Senior Advisor), Robert Nabors (Office of Legislative Affairs Director), and 19 others held the Assistant to the President designation, with top pay of $172,200.
Like most presidents, Joe Biden doesn’t donate his $400,000 salary. Donald Trump was the first since John F. Kennedy to donate his pre-tax quarterly salary to government agencies.
Comparing the staff headcounts of the First Lady payroll.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama was heavily criticized for her 24-member staff in 2009 including assistants, advisors, schedulers, directors, deputies, associates, social and press secretaries, and other "helpers." Melania Trump’s staff fluctuated between five and 12 throughout her husband’s term.
We identified 20 staffers working for Jill Biden this year, and eight in FY2022. We reached out the White House for comment on if other staff are assigned duties to the First Lady that are not listed in the report. We will update this report if we receive a response.
COVID-19 RESPONSE TEAM
Biden declared the pandemic to be “over” on September 19, 2022. The official federal public health emergency declaration was ended on May 11, 2023.
Yet the White House still hosts multiple staffers with a title that includes “COVID-19 Response,” with salaries ranging from $183,500 for Karuna Sashasai (Senior Policy Advisor for the COVID-19 Response) to $51,500 for Theodore Sorota (Advisor to the Deputy Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response).
If you were expecting to review the employees of the Vice President, no luck. Veep employees are not included with the White House payroll release.
In fact, the Office of Vice President makes the claim that they are exempt from releasing any information regarding their payroll.
We disagree. It will take a lawsuit to settle the question: Is the Office of Vice President subject to the Freedom of Information Act?
Read our oversight report covering all aspects of the issue or watch our video summary here.
Although the White House personnel budget is an infinitesimal part of the $6.4 trillion federal budget in FY2023, it is an important forecasting indicator showing Biden’s commitment to expand the size, scope, and power of the federal government.
Note: we requested comment from the White House and will update the piece if there is a response. All inflation adjusted numbers cited use the US Bureau of Labor Statistics trailing 12-month inflation through May 2023 (5.3%).
Biden Administration Spent $100 Million On Payroll Since 2021 – And Still 220 Staffers Quit | Published July 1, 2022
OpenTheBooks Oversight Report: White House Payroll (2009-2021) | Published June 2022
OpenTheBooks Oversight Report: Office of Vice President Payroll (2021) | Published June 2022
Forbes: Biden’s Bloated White House Payroll Is Most Expensive In American History | July 1, 2021
Forbes: Trump’s Leaner White House 2020 Payroll Saved Taxpayers $23.5 Million Since 2017 | June 30, 2020
Forbes: Trump's Leaner White House 2019 Payroll Has Already Saved Taxpayers $20 Million | June 28, 2019
Forbes: Trump's Lean White House 2018 Payroll On-Track To Save Taxpayers $22 Million | June 29, 2018
Forbes: Trump's Leaner White House Payroll 2017 Projected To Save Taxpayers $22 Million | July 2, 2017