Obama’s Millionaires (and Now Billionaire) Cabinet

By Al Kamen
Washington Post, April 09, 2013

Vice President Biden is an exception in a Cabinet of millionaires. On the other hand, Attorney General Eric Holder, right, fits in fine.

Vice President Biden is an exception in a Cabinet of millionaires. On the… (Jim Lo Scalzo/EUROPEAN…)

It’s become fashionable among Washington’s secretarial class (that is, the Cabinet kind) to give up a portion of their salaries to show solidarity with the hard-working folks under them whose pay is being pinched by the sequester.

It’s worth noting, however, that some of President Obama’s Cabinet secretaries can more easily afford to participate in the phenomenon we’ve dubbed “sacrifice solidarity” than others. For most, giving up a chunk of their nearly $200,000 annual pay amounts to little more than lost latte money. For a few, though, it’s a serious bit of cash relative to their bank-account balances.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who kicked off the trend by being the first to announce he’d magnanimously relinquish his salary, is a multimillionaire and the third-richest member of the Cabinet (see the figures below). The two richest members soon joined him: Secretary of State John Kerry, who is far and away the wealthiest of the bunch, and Attorney General Eric Holder. So did Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan (fifth wealthiest), Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (seventh), and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (ninth).

It may be hard to keep up with those Joneses: One of the least wealthy members of the Cabinet, at No. 10, is Vice President Biden, who’s said to be considering whether to forgo some of his $231,000 salary.

We should note that it’s difficult to precisely rank Cabinet members by wealth, since their assets and debts are disclosed in ranges.

For these rankings, we used the averages of the ranges, based on the most recent forms submitted to the Office of Government Ethics and analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. We also omitted acting secretaries and those whose replacements’ nominations are pending in the Senate.

And as wealthy as the Cabinet is now, it’s poised to turn into an even more exclusive club. If hotel scion Penny Pritzker gets the nod for commerce secretary, as is expected, the group will have its first billionaire. And Obama’s recent picks — Ernest Moniz, a physicist who sits on multiple boards, to be the new energy secretary, and REI CEO Sally Jewell for Interior — are quite comfortable, too.

Here’s a list of Cabinet secretaries and their net-worth ranges.

●Secretary of State Kerry: $184.2 million to $287.7 million.

●Attorney General Holder: $3.8 million to $8.4 million.

●Defense Secretary Hagel: $2.8 million to $6 million.

●Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki: $2.2 million to $5.9 million.

●HUD Secretary Donovan: $1.5 million to $6.1 million.

●Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack: $1.2 million to $5.6 million.

●HHS Secretary Sebelius: $502,000 to $4.9 million.

●Education Secretary Arne Duncan: $1.3 million to $3.4 million.

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