Biden's White House Staff, Payroll Are Biggest Since Nixon

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

It got very little coverage in either the mainstream media or in conservative media, but that fact should not detract from the significance of yet another data-driven exposé that OpentheBooks.org made possible.

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The Illinois-based non-profit government watchdog (the one that I consider the jewel of the American transparency and accountability in government movement*) dug into the official data and found that more people are working for President Joe Biden on the White House staff than any previous administration since Richard Milhous Nixon was the Chief Executive.

Think about that: Not since 1973 when Nixon was in the throes of his Watergate spiral into ignominy has a President had so many minions working for him. That's more than Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.

The numbers tell the story. An additional 41 employees joined the White House staff during Fiscal Year 2024, bringing the total to 565 staffers. The total cost of the payroll serving Biden is now $60.8 million.

Biden is the first Chief Executive with 500 or more employees on the White House staff. Biden employed 560 people in 2021, then saw the total drop to 474 the next year and bounce back to 524 in 2023.

“This payroll was made public just hours before the statutory deadline and days after the presidential debate set off a torrent of questions about President Biden’s ability to serve. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the support system around him has grown historically large and costly," OpenTheBooks.org Founder and President Adam Andrzejewski said in a statement made public with the data.

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"The White House contains more staff than at any time since the Nixon era, when TIME Magazine said headcount was growing with ‘startling rapidity.’ At $60.8 million, this White House staff is the most expensive since OpenTheBooks.com began tracking the numbers in 2009,” Andrzejewski said.

Compared to his predecessor, Biden has 152 more total staffers compared to Trump at the end of his administration. Biden also has 97 more workers in his White House than Obama did at the same point of his tenure in the Oval Office.

The Biden White House has also seen a high turnover rate, with 225 employees departing since 2023. At 43%, the most recent turnover rate is down slightly from the previous year when it reached 46%.

First Lady Jill Biden has contributed to the increasing number of White House workers, with four added this year. Mrs. Biden's total of 24 matches that of former First Lady Michelle Obama. Compared to former First Lady Melania Trump's staff of 11, the Jill Biden staff is more than twice as big.

The highest-paid White House employee other than the President and Vice-President Kamala Harris is Associate Counsel Michelle Barrans, who is paid $251,258 (Level I of the federal government's Executive Schedule). Next up is Farah Ahmad, Special Adviser for Economic Development who receives $191,900 (Level IV).

Also being paid $191,900 are Michael Baer and William Desmond, both Associate Counsels, as well as Drenan Dudley, Director for Long-term Recovery and Rebuilding, Senior Policy Adviser Miranda Lynch-Smith, and Andrea O'Neal, Senior Policy Adviser and the individual overseeing the Biden administration's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts through the White House Domestic Policy Council. She has also served as the first-ever Senior Advisor to the Administrator for Equity at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).

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OpenTheBooks.org said in its analysis of the White House payroll data that Biden employs 106 Special Assistants whose duties mirror those known as "Czars" under Obama. A total of 52 of these Special Assistants are paid $121,500, while 54 receive $139,500.

The policy areas over which these Special Assistants preside include issues like "gun violence prevention" and "gender policy." There are also four Special Assistants, each with responsibilities related to "climate policy." None of these officials are elected, they are strictly political appointees.

This latest expose from OpenTheBooks.org was based in part on a report to Congress from the White House that was delivered just before its due date expired. The "report" is actually nothing more than a 12-page long list of employees, their titles, their status (i.e. full, part-time, detailee), and their compensation figures.

Interestingly, this annual report was first mandated in 1995 following the 1994 "Contract with America" election that saw Republicans gain majorities in both the Senate and House for the first time in 40 years.

That move by a Republican Congress to crack open a door into executive branch empire-building was an early precursor to the transparency and accountability in government movement on the conservative side of the political spectrum that had for many prior years been dominated by the liberal side. 

By 2005, when Sen. Tom "Dr. No" Coburn (R-Okla.) proposed the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (FFATA), which mandated what became the USASpending.gov website that makes public most federal spending, such conservative populist-oriented thinking was firmly established on much of the Right.

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The next frontier for the movement for transparency and accountability in government is to reform the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to give it concrete enforcement and genuine criminal penalties for its violation, an issue about which I often write, most recently here.

*No, I don't receive one penny for saying that, and I say it often in multiple forums because I believe it.  

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