First rule of Obama transparency: If it's a holiday, it's time for a White House document dump. Over the Independence Day weekend, the administration released its 2011 annual report to Congress on White House staff salaries. While economic data for the rest of America remains bleak, the financial outlook for Obama flacks looks rosier than the president's complexion after his latest round of golf.
In total, President Obama's 454 employees at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. will rake in $37 million. That's up $4 million from the income of George W. Bush's staff in 2008, back when the unemployment rate was three points lower, the federal government workforce was 12 percent smaller and the massive deficit was still measured in hundreds of billions, not trillions. One in three of Obama's employees makes more than $100,000 a year.
Of particular interest to me are the high-paid Obama aides assigned to the apparently vital task of "engagement" -- that is, politicking, pandering and partisan cajoling -- on the taxpayers' dime.
I found at least 17 staffers listed in the report with titles referencing the "Office of Public Engagement" (OPE) or "online engagement" (otherwise known as liberal blog hand-holding and crisis management). These "engagers" are among the top earners in the White House. Fourteen of the 17 earn $50,000 or more. Chicago crony Valerie Jarrett, the White House senior adviser who oversees OPE, receives a salary of $172,200 a year. Michael Strautmanis, deputy assistant to the president and counselor to the senior adviser for strategic engagement, earns $150,000. Nathanael Tamarin, a special assistant to the president for public engagement, makes $96,900 a year.
The director of OPE, Jon Carson, pulls in $153,000 annually. Carson's deputy, Brian Bond, boasts a $93,840 yearly salary. OPE deputy directors Greg Nelson and Anne Filipic earn $92,000.
What, exactly, are all these minions paid to do? OPE describes itself as "allow(ing) the views of the ordinary American citizen to be more readily heard within the administration" and coordinating "events that bring members of the administration in contact with members of the public."
In reality, it's another publicly subsidized Obama spin operation by a different name.
The murky office of public engagement was refashioned by Jarrett from the former Office of Public Liaison to do things like push the costly failed 2016 Olympics bid by her old friend and employer former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.
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