Excessive Compensation for Political Consultants

An article in The New York Times today shows that the Clinton campaign has squandered the donations from its big cat donors.  Money was wasted on party platters for victory celebrations when there was nothing to celebrate, on expensive hotel rooms at luxury hotels like the Bellagio and the Four Seasons, and on extremely expensive political consultants who have mismanaged her campaign to the brink of the abyss.  This is further evidence of the financial mismanagement of the Clinton campaign which I discussed in a prior post.

What I found most shocking in the article is the obscene amount of money that the senior members of her campaign get paid.  For instance, her communications director, Howard Wolfson, got paid $267,000 just in January!  Since the beginning of the campaign, he’s billed Hillary for $730,000.  (It’s possible that some of this money has gone to his firm and/or paid salaries for other people and that the Times failed to specify this.) I wouldn’t have been shocked by Wolfson’s large fees if he were running a Republican’s Presidential campaign.  After all, Republicans generally believe more strongly than Democrats in free markets and supply and demand.  But Democrats are supposedly more idealistic and fighting to improve the lives of poor people and middle-class workers.  There’s huge irony in having a guy raking in this kind of money formulating the message of a campaign focused on people who earn so much less and struggle to get by.

In fairness to the Clinton campaign, the article pointed out that the Obama campaign also has highly paid consultants.  The firm of his top media strategist, David Axelrod, has received $175,000 in January and $1.2 Million since the beginning of the campaign. The article did not indicate how much of this money went directly to Mr. Axelrod and the Obama campaign refuses to disclose this.  However, an article in the Los Angeles Times today indicated that Wolfson’s counterpart in the Obama campaign, Robert Gibbs, is paid $144,000 a year.  His campaign manager, David Plouffe, is paid the same amount.  Why the big difference?  Wolfson came from the private sector where he was well paid while Gibbs and Plouffe both worked in the public sector; Gibbs worked on Obama’s Senate staff while Plouffe worked for Richard Gephardt and for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

When CEOs get paid obscene amounts of money, they argue that their high compensation is set by the open market and is justified by the financial benefits they bring their shareholders.  Frankly, I don’t buy the part about the open market — I think CEOs just ratchet up their own compensation each year and then have their board of directors rubberstamp it.  These new levels of compensation then become the norm and new CEOs are offered the same sweet deals.  It’s not as if the board of directors picks the 5 best candidates and asks them each to propose a salary and then hires the cheapest one.  There is no supply and demand operating in these situations because the board of directors picks the 1 person they want as CEO and only then negotiate his or her package.  But I do agree that some CEOs might be so skilled as to generate enough profits to cover their high salaries.  Jack Welch of GE seemed to have delivered great value to his shareholders.  In any case, a CEO is entitled to seek as much financial compensation as he or she can get; their relationship with the company they manage is primarily a financial one.  Their own personal philosophy, religious beliefs, or political views do not usually play any role in their employment.

If the high-priced Democratic political consultants like Howard Wolfson, Mark Penn, and David Axelrod were true Democrats and really cared about the things that the Democrats fight for, then they would work for much less money.  It’s offensive that the campaigns ask ordinary working Americans to donate $50 or $100 of their hard-earned wages to their campaigns and then pay these consultants so much.  Maybe this is overly idealistic.  Maybe these consultants, some of whom work for firms that have other clients besides political candidates, view themselves as hired guns paid for their services at market rates.  This would certainly be their right.  Maybe they’re not even Democrats?  I actually don’t object so much to these people asking for large sums of money for their time, especially if they get paid the same rates by their corporate clients.  What I object to is the willingness of the campaigns to pay them these rates when there are clearly good people like Robert Gibbs and David Plouffe willing to work for much less money.

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3 Responses to “Excessive Compensation for Political Consultants”

  1. Obama Has Another “Record Breaking” Month Of Spending..Look At The Numbers | Right Voices Says:

    […] Excessive Compensation for Political Consultants the article pointed out that the Obama campaign also has highly paid consultants.  The firm of his top media strategist, David Axelrod, has received $175,000 in January and $1.2 Million since the beginning of the campaign. The article did not indicate how much of this money went directly to Mr. Axelrod and the Obama campaign refuses to disclose this.  However, an article in the Los Angeles Times today indicated that Wolfson’s counterpart in the Obama campaign, Robert Gibbs, is paid $144,000 a year.  His campaign manager, David Plouffe, is paid the same amount.  Why the big difference?  Wolfson came from the private sector where he was well paid while Gibbs and Plouffe both worked in the public sector; Gibbs worked on Obama’s Senate staff while Plouffe worked for Richard Gephardt and for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. […]

  2. Money for Nothing(?) | The Juneau Vampire Says:

    […] September with $77 million cash in hand. His campaign manager, David Plouffe, reportedly earns $144,000 annually, or a mere $12,000 per month. A 30 second commercial running nationally runs about $350,000, not […]

  3. plouffe @ pomona college Says:

    […] to make the guy out to be a mercenary, especially considering the fact that according to reports, he only made $144,000 on the year. which is INSANELY low for the liberal answer to karl rove. particularly when we consider that […]

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