The 2012 election — by pay

December 19, 2013

8:38 p.m. Correction: NOI spokesman Evan Sutton said the figures were initially incorrectly calculated in the group's analysis. "The data is really inconsistent when you break down the individual transaction reports," he said. This post has been updated with the accurate numbers now provided by NOI. Seven -- not 10 -- of the highest-paid Romney staffers made more than any Obama staffer. 

President Obama's campaign team won the 2012 election. But Mitt Romney's top campaign staff won the battle of paychecks.


(Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Romney's seven highest-paid campaign staffers all made more in 2012 than anyone on Obama's campaign. That's just one of the many notable findings in data compiled by New Organizing Institute, a liberal group, which took a broad look at federal campaign staffers in their study.

A few important caveats.

First, the data come from Federal Election Commission reports, which are not perfect. In such a vast collection of data, there are bound to be some errors. Second, the data do not include campaign consultants who are not technically part of the staff but are typically among a campaign's highest-paid strategists. Think pollsters -- Joel Benenson for Obama and Neil Newhouse for Romney -- and media consultants -- Rich Davis and David Dixon for Obama and Stuart Stevens and Russ Schriefer for Romney -- for example. Third, the data reflect payments made in 2012, but not 2011.

Finally, it's worth noting that the Romney campaign handed out bonuses to top staff after the candidate officially claimed the Republican nomination. Beeson, for example, got $37,500 on Aug. 31. After winning the general  election, the Obama campaign awarded about $171,000 in bonuses to a quartet of top staffers: Jim Messina, Stephanie Cutter, Julianna Smoot and Jennifer O'Malley Dillon.

With that, we give you a chart of the top 10 highest-paid staffers in both campaigns. Red indicates Romney staffers, and blue is for Obama staffers:


Here are the most notable things that stuck out to us:

* The top seven highest-paid Romney staffers made more than Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, who was the highest-paid Obama staffer. Messina made about $172,000 in 2012. His counterpart on the Romney campaign, Matt Rhoades, made about $183,000.

* Romney political director Rich Beeson was the highest-paid staff member in either campaign. He made $214,375. Beeson was one of the architects of "Project ORCA," an expensive voter-targeting operation that was ultimately plagued by flaws.

* Romney press secretary Andrea Saul made more than Obama press secretary Ben LaBolt. Saul made about $132,000 while LaBolt made about $88,000.

* Romney communications director Gail Gitcho ($183,125) made substantially more than Obama communications director Brent Colburn ($54,820). But Colburn did not start drawing paychecks until March.

Here are the complete lists of the top 10 highest-paid staffers in each campaign, rounded to the nearest dollar:

Romney campaign

1. Rich Beeson, political director: $214,375
2. Lanhee Chen, policy director, $183,125
2. Kathryn Biber, general counsel: $183,125
2. Zachary Moffatt, digital director: $183,125
2. Gail Gitcho, communications director: $183,125
2. Matt Rhoades, campaign manager: $183,125
7. Gabriel Schoenfeld, senior adviser/speechwriter: $172,500
8. Jason McBride, deputy political director/New Hampshire state director: $140,000
9. Louis Tavares, staff secretary/senior adviser: $133,750
10. Andrea Saul, press secretary: $132,083

Obama campaign

1. Jim Messina, campaign manager: $172,345
2. Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager: $139,840
3. Jennifer O'Malley Dillon, deputy campaign manager: $138,099
4. Julianna Smoot, deputy campaign manager: $135,655
5. Michael Slaby, chief innovation & integration officer: $113,511
6. Jeremy Bird, national field director: $112,925
7. Katherine Archuleta, national political director: $111,193
8. Allyson Laackman, chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama: $110,973
9. Buffy Wicks, director of "Operation Vote": $110,628
10. Ann Marie Habershaw, chief operating officer: $109,558

For the full data set via New Organizing Institute, click here.

Sean Sullivan covers national politics for “The Fix.”
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