Former NIH Chief Is Now Highest Paid Member of Most Expensive White House Staff Ever

Former NIH Chief Is Now Highest Paid Member of Most Expensive White House Staff Ever
Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, testifies during the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing in Washington on Sept. 9, 2020. (Greg Nash/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Mark Tapscott

When Francis Collins departed as Director of the National Institutes for Health (NIH) in December 2021, his legacy included multiple-millions of dollars in secret royalty payments to himself, prominent colleagues like Dr. Anthony Fauci, and hundreds of other scientists, officials, and researchers working under him.

Today, Collins is the highest paid adviser to the president with the most expensive White House staff ever, according to data compiled by the Chicago-based non-profit government watchdog, Open The Books (OTB).

Collins is paid $300,000 annually as the Acting Science Adviser to President Joe Biden. The new salary represents a 47 percent increase over the $203,500 annual compensation Collins made as NIH Director for 12 years. All salary figures were obtained by OTB under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Earlier this year, The Epoch Times first reported that OTB uncovered more than 1,600 NIH officials, scientists, and researchers who received an estimated $350 million in secret royalty payments from sources outside the government that the agency refuses to identify.

The payments were made between 2010 and 2020, including all but a couple of years of Collins’ tenure.

“We also find that during this period, leadership at NIH was involved in receiving third-party payments. For instance, Francis Collins, the immediate past director of NIH, received 14 payments. Dr. Anthony Fauci received 23 payments, and his deputy, Clifford Lane, received eight payments,” OTB President Adam Andrzejewski told The Epoch Times.

Collins’ successor as NIH Director, Dr. Lawrence Tabak, admitted to Congress in May that the secret royalty payments have “the appearance of a conflict of interest,” but he claimed the agency has sufficient internal safeguards to prevent abuse.

Federal personnel law and regulations bar government employees from having either actual conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts in their decision-making as public servants.

As was his departure from NIH, Collins’ move to the White House was accompanied by controversy. Normally, the president’s Chief Science Adviser is also Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

But when Biden announced Collins’ appointment in February, the chief executive also announced that he was promoting then-OSTP Deputy Director Alondra Nelson to head the office, thus effectively installing two individuals in what had previously been a single position.

Both positions—Science Adviser to the President and OSTP Director—were previously filled by Eric Lander, who resigned after it was reported he bullied staff members under his supervision.

Technically, Collins is a detailee to the White House, as are the second- and third-highest paid White House advisers. Those include Luisa Paiewonsky, Senior Policy Adviser for Transportation at $191,300, and Stephanie Sykes, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for Infrastructure Implementation at $183,100. Detailee salaries are included in the White House report to Congress on its employment costs.
The data on the White House salaries was also made public by OTB in a report on July 1.

There are 23 regular White House employees with the title of Assistant to the President, all paid $180,000 annually, including White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain. The average White House salary is $98,649, with both detailees and regular employees included in the calculation.

In his first year in the Oval Office in 2021, Biden’s White House staff included 560 individuals at a cost of $49.6 million, the highest ever reported since 1995 when such data was first reported.

President Donald Trump spent $39.5 million on 377 White House staffers in his first year in office, while President Barack Obama hired 487 White House staff members in his first year at a cost of $49.4 million. The Trump and Obama figures are adjusted for inflation, according to OTB.

Biden’s White House staff total is almost certain to be lower at the end of 2022 than it was in 2021, because of the exodus of more than 80 individuals in recent months. Even so, OTB projects that the Biden White House staff costs will continue to be the highest ever.

“Biden’s White House salary costs will likely continue to outpace his predecessors. The projected four-year costs of the Biden payroll top $200 million, compared to the 2017-2020 Trump administration’s $152 million (inflation adjusted to $163 million), the 2013-2016 Obama administration’s $155.6 million ($178.2 million), and the 2009- 2012 Obama administration’s $153 million (inflation adjusted to $187 million),” the OTB report said.

Obama was the first chief executive to appoint individual advisers and designate them as “czars” over particular policy areas, a practice that sometimes led to policy confusion or friction with the heads of departments and agencies with statutory responsibilities for the same issues.

“Biden’s first-year czars include National Climate Adviser Regina McCarthy ($180,000). Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry is an international climate negotiations czar, but is appointed under the State Department, rather than under the Office of the White House ($183,100),” according to the OTB report.

“Obama-era czar Jeff Zients ($36,000) made a return as Biden’s COVID-19 czar on the White House payroll. From 2009-2013, Zients served as chief performance officer working on fixing bugs in the website, and later on economic policy as director of the National Economic Council,” the report continued.

Mark Tapscott is an award-winning investigative editor and reporter who covers Congress, national politics, and policy for The Epoch Times. Mark was admitted to the National Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Hall of Fame in 2006 and he was named Journalist of the Year by CPAC in 2008. He was a consulting editor on the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series “Other Than Honorable” in 2014.