Friday, July 01, 2011

Senior Policy Advisor Sam Kass Not Listed In 2011 Annual White House Salary Report

The Administration's point man for Healthy Food Initiatives occupies a unique position in history...
President Obama and First Lady Obama's head food honcho, Sam Kass, is not included in the 2011 Annual Report to Congress on White House Staff, released today (chart below). The Report lists the title and salary of 454 White House Office employees, but Kass, who holds the title of Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives, is not on the list, despite being one of the chief architects of Mrs. Obama's national Let's Move! campaign, an Administration-wide initiative that involves twelve federal agencies. Kass was not on last year's Report, either. He is still paid as an assistant chef who is a member of the Residence Staff, and these employees' salaries are not included in the Report, which lists salaries ranging from $0 to the top pay rate of $172,200. There are numerous individuals included in the Report holding the title of "Senior Policy Advisor." (Top: Kass with Mrs. Obama during last year's launch of the national Chefs Move to Schools initiative, which Kass created and leads)

The White House has been required to deliver the Report to Congress each year since 1995. A total of 141 employees earn six figures annually, with 21 earning the top pay rate. The Obama Administration posted the Report on the White House blog, "consistent with President Obama's commitment to transparency."

The busiest man in food policy...
Other than the First Lady herself, Kass is the leading policy maker and spokesman for the Let's Move! campaign. He's working with federal, state, and local officials, the private sector, nonprofits, schools and school districts, and grassroots and advocacy groups. In addition to daily policy meetings in Washington, Kass has been criss-crossing the country for Let's Move!, with at least two out-of-DC trips each month since January of 2011. He's also become the de facto White House Press Secretary for Food.

Kass, now 31, arrived at the White House in 2009 at age 28, following two years as the Obama's private chef in Chicago. His first title was assistant chef and Food Initiative Coordinator, but in June of 2010, Kass was quietly promoted, with a title change to better reflect his duties. The change was not announced by the White House, but after first being reported here at Obama Foodorama, it went on to make global headlines. Both of the titles and Kass' position are unique to the Obama White House; there was never previously anyone serving in Kass' role.

Kass was recently named to Fast Company magazine's 2011 list of the "100 Most Creative People in Business" for his work getting private sector corporations to partner with First Lady Obama and Let's Move!. He narrowly missed being named to the 2011 Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world

June found Kass in California, in New York two times, the first time to do two live morning TV appearances and the second to speak at a conference, and in Louisiana for another food conference.

Like other Policy Advisors at the White House, Kass' meeting and travel schedules are not publicly announced. The curious can ostensibly check the on-line White House Visitor Records to see with whom Kass has met, but not all White House visitors get noted in the log, as many media outlets have noted (and complained about).

Kass still cooks dinner for the First Family each evening when he is in Washington, as well as masterminds the Kitchen Garden, among other activities. He also joins the First Family on their annual summer vacations in Martha's Vineyard and at Christmas in Hawaii. At left: Kass is rarely photographed with President Obama, but he was captured on the greens with the First Golfer last August on Martha's Vineyard.

Let's Move! Executive Director departs...and no salary is listed
The Let's Move! campaign had an Executive Director until this month, when Robin Schepper left her post. Schepper was coordinating outreach rather than making policy, and her annual salary is not included in the Report, but she lasted less than a year; Schepper joined the East Wing in August of 2010. The search is on for a replacement for Schepper, according to Kristina Schake, Mrs. Obama's Director of Communications. Schake also told Obama Foodorama that a job search is being conducted for an Executive Director for Mrs. Obama's other national campaign, Joining Forces. Schake earns $114,000 annually, for the record.

The Report: Place cursor on right side to scroll up and down

Other White House staff: The Report also contains the title and salary details of administration officials who work at the Office of Policy Development, including the Domestic Policy Council and the National Economic Council. As noted above, there are 454 Office Staff listed in the report, with salary ranges listed as $0 for three different advisors, to the top pay rate of $172,200, which is paid to 21 individuals. This is what is paid to the President's Chief of Staff, William M. Daley. Also at this level are Valerie Jarrett and David Plouffe, who both hold the title Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor; as well as Melody Barnes, Chair of the Domestic Policy Council; and Nancy Ann DeParle, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff, among others. Press Secretary Jay Carney, who also holds the title of Assistant to the President, is at this pay rate, in part because he can walk and chew gum at the same time, as he reminded reporters a number of times this week. Mrs. Obama's Chief of Staff, Tina Tchen, who also holds the title Assistant to the President, also makes $172,200.

Social Secretary Jeremy Bernard earns $118,000 annually, less than his female predecessor. He's the first male Social Secretary in White House history. Mrs. Obama currently has a staff of 22, not including Kass, the other White House chefs, and the departed Schepper.

Chefs as policy ambassadors...
Mrs. Obama is the only First Lady to ever have made a practice of utilizing Residence staff for policy initiatives. In addition to Kass, the other White House chefs have been active participants in the Let's Move! campaign, too. Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford and Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses, as well as assistant chef Tafari Cambell have made trips to various US states for food policy initiatives. Yosses this month traveled to Austin, Texas, to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Chefs Move to Schools program. Yosses, Kass and Comerford have adopted DC's Harriet Tubman Elementary Schools as part of the Chefs Move initiative, and have visited regularlywith students and staff. (Above from L: Assistant Pastry Chef Susie Morrison, Comerford, assistant chef Adam Collick; assistant chef Tafari Campbell)

President Obama earns $400,000 annually, and the First Lady receives no salary. President Obama earns additional income from the sale of his best-selling books, as well as other sources, which are reported on his income tax returns.

See also: 2010 Annual Report to Congress on White House Staff [PDF]

*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama, except for golf photo; that's by AP/pool