WASHINGTON (AP) — Government service makes for a swell resume but it isn’t where cats go to get fat. That often comes later, as Franklin D. Raines is about to demonstrate. Raines, for one, may earn about as much in a week at Fannie Mae as he did in a year as President Clinton’s budget chief.
Raines is part of a long line of Clinton appointees who came from or left for jobs that pay phenomenally better than their government work, even if their private sector duties are less consequential.
Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin’s Cabinet salary of $151,800 is, for people in his league, practically lunch money. He’s so rich — earning $26 million in his last year as chairman of Goldman Sachs & Co. — he’s been known to charter a jet on his own tab for government business.
Clinton’s chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, is worth more than $30 million, second only to Rubin. Indeed, Clinton has appointed more millionaires to top jobs than George Bush or Ronald Reagan did.
For Raines and others, government has been an interruption in the accumulation of wealth.
A self-made millionaire, Raines earned almost $6 million in salary and other compensation in 1996 as vice chairman of Fannie Mae, the federally chartered mortgage finance company, during a career that has included a board membership at Boeing Co., where his mother once worked cleaning offices.
Raines is to return to Fannie Mae as a director in May and as chairman and CEO in January. The man he’s replacing earned about $7 million last year, or $134,615 a week. Raines made under $150,000 last year as director of the Office of Management and Budget before top-level federal salaries crept up.
The sense of noblesse oblige in the top ranks of leadership is hardly new. When Dwight Eisenhower appointed a labor secretary who came from the labor movement, his Cabinet was known as being made up of “eight millionaires and a plumber” — and that was back when making a million was a much bigger deal.
Clinton appointed nine Cabinet-level millionaires when he came to office, about the same as he has now through many staff changes. As for his own finances, he earns $200,000 as president and, with his wife, Hillary, reported 1997 adjusted gross income of $569,511, down from their first million-dollar year, in 1996.
Washington is full of jobs that don’t pay nearly as well as ones that may follow. That can make government service not a golden parachute but a golden rocket for those who aren’t already rich when they arrive.
After two decades in government, including a stint as housing secretary in the Bush administration, Jack Kemp joined the speaking circuit and a variety of boards, turning a modest income into millions.
After losing the presidential election, Bob Dole joined a Washington law firm brimming with big names and high-priced lobbying business. He’s there with another former Senate leader, George Mitchell, former Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen and former Texas Gov. Ann Richards.
Several of Clinton’s senior aides also have gone on to television, a growing field for campaign and political advisers.
But for all the paths to institutions of higher earning, few public figures acknowledge what almost any other worker would readily admit — an interest in bigger bucks.
Jack Quinn gave the most common reason for moving on and perhaps the rarest in the same breath when he left his $125,000 job as the top White House lawyer in December 1996.
“It’s truly personal,” he said, citing family. “It’s significantly financial.”