Select Page

Will Executive Pay Cap Include the Smithsonian?

The Obama administration is expected to impose a cap of $500,000 for top executives at companies that receive large amounts of bailout money.

Will the $150 million earmarked for the Smithsonian Institution in the stimulus bill mean that executive pay at this mostly government funding institution will finally be capped?

As we weep for the poorly funded Smithsonian, which receives 70% of its funding from the United States government but doesn’t charge an entrance fee to its visitors, we must remember that only forty-two Smithsonian employees have higher salaries than members of Congress. Only nineteen Smithsonian employees are paid salaries greater than the $212,000 salary paid to the Vice President of the United States.

Salaries for selected federal government officials:

POTUS: $400,000;
Chief Justice: $217,400
VPOTUS: $212,000;
Cabinet Secretaries: $191,300;
Congress: $168,000;
17 White House staffers at the top pay scale: $157,000;
GS-15 maximum base: $120,981;

A sampling of Smithsonian salaries through 2008:

Lawrence M. Small: former Fannie Mae banker who resigned as the institution’s 11th secretary last year:

  • Base Salary: $884,733
  • Housing allowances: $1.15 million over a six-year period ($152,000 in utility bills, $273,000 in housekeeping services and $203,000 in maintenance charges, including $12,000 for upkeep and service on his backyard swimming pool.)
  • Office Redecoration: $160,000 (compare: POTUS is given $100,000 to decorate the oval office and his private residential quarters).

James M. Hobbins: executive assistant to the secretary of the Smithsonian, who resigned in August after destroying transcripts from a meeting in January when regents discussed then-Secretary Lawrence M. Small’s compensation, housing allowance and travel expenses among other things.

  • Salary: $183,500

Think about that. The guy in charge of getting coffee for the head of the Smithsonian had a higher salary than Barack Obama did last year as a United States Senator.

Gary M. Beer replaced August 2007 as chief executive of Smithsonian Business Ventures after an inspector general’s report found he had abused his institution-issued credit card and billed thousands of dollars in expenditures that were unauthorized or lacked evidence of a business purpose.

  • Salary: $570,317 in 2005

Pilar O’Leary, former Fannie Mae attorney and head of the Smithsonian Latino Center resigned in February 2008 after violating 14 ethical and conflict-of-interest policies, including abusing her expense account, trying to steer a contract to a friend and soliciting free tickets for fashion shows, concerts and music award ceremonies.

  • Salary: $200,000 in 2005
Still on the Payroll

Ned Rifkin, undersecretary for art: $440,000;
Sheila P. Burke, deputy secretary and chief operating officer: $400,000;
David L. Evans, Undersecretary for Science: $315,000;

Did you ever figure you’d live to see the day where the head of the Smithsonian Institution would be paid more than not only the President of the United States, but also the CEO’s of General Motors and Citigroup?

Now that’s hope and change we can believe in.

Related Reading: