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Team Obama Cashing Out

The president might be having a tough time but his staff is still landing well.


Stephanie Cutter.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The West Wing is more in flux than usual. John Podesta's in as the new Fixer. Phil Schiliro is back to mend fences with Congress. Longtime Obama consigliere Pete Rouse is leaving. Reports have other White House vets delaying their departures until the ship feels righted.

But those departures will come – and likely sooner rather than later. And if their predecessors are any indication, the next wave of aides to jump will be able to leverage their experience and contacts into lucrative way private sector gigs.


Here's a look at ex-Obama aides who have done well by their work with the president.

David Axelrod

Old gig: Political guru and West Wing counselor


New gig: Taking his guru-ness to the next level by establishing the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago; advising clients in races as far-flung as Italy; living comfortably on the sale of his stake in two Chicago public affairs firms in 2009 for $3 million; working on his memoir due to be published in 2014 by Penguin Press; working as a paid political analyst for NBC News; a highly-paid member of the Washington Speakers Bureau.

David Plouffe

Old gig: Campaign mastermind; White House adviser

New gig: Giving big-dollar speeches that draw criticism, whether they are in Azerbaijan, or to companies with ties to Iran, and advising private clients. Plouffe "built a billion-dollar nationwide organization that inspired millions and made history," gushes the same Washington Speakers Bureau that represents Axelrod. He received a seven-figure advance to write his book The Audacity to Win, which became a best-seller, but now can be found in the bargain bin. Recently joined ABC News as an analyst. (Incidentally, William Daley, former Obama chief of staff, has just signed up with CBS, so the big three networks are covered.)


Robert Gibbs

Old gig: White House press secretary

New gig: Formed the Incite Agency with ex-Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt. Gibbs, the agency's site reads, "has helped companies across a multitude of industries to create and implement communications strategies grounded in research and data" and describes him as a "core member of the team that built the Obama brand from the ground up." Clients include pharma behemoth Eli Lilly.

Anita Dunn

Old gig: White House communications director

New gig: Director of SKDKnickerbocker, a public affairs firm. The firm's clients include AT&T, General Electric, Time Warner, Pratt & Whitney, Kaplan University and TransCanada, the company behind the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Jim Messina

Old gig: Deputy chief of staff; 2012 campaign manager

New gig: Formed The Messina Group, a consulting firm. In managing Obama's reelection, Messina, his site says, "abandoned every step of a traditional presidential campaign and merged technology and politics in a way that was both unpredictable and unprecedented." In September, he joined the board of directors of LanzaTech, a biofuels company, to, the company says, "help evangelize the new energy paradigm."

Jon Favreau

Old gig: Obama speechwriter

New gig: Formed Fenway Strategies with former Obama national security spokesman Tommy Vietor. They have "crafted remarks for some of the world's most famous CEOs, philanthropists, celebrities, and government officials," their site says. "No one ever took a vow of poverty in the White House," Favreau said in a video interview in October. "No one said they would never again work in the private sector and make money."

Bill Burton

Old gig: Deputy White House press secretary

New gig: Formed and ran Priorities USA Action, a super PAC that raked in more than $75 million during the 2012 campaign; recently joined the public affairs firm Global Strategy Group as a managing director. Clients include GE, Cisco, American Express, Comcast, and Pfizer.

Stephanie Cutter

Old gig: Obama health-care strategist; deputy 2012 campaign manger

New gig: Yelling at Newt Gingrich daily on CNN's Crossfire; recently formed Precision Strategies with ex-Obama aides Jen O'Malley Dillon and Teddy Goff. "We built and managed a $1.2 billion start-up called the Obama campaign," their site says.

Mike Donilon

Old gig: Senior adviser to Vice President Joe Biden

New gig: This summer joined AKPD Message and Media—which just happens to be Axelrod's old firm and which was retained by Bill de Blasio's successful New York mayoral bid. His campaign paid the firm more than $7 million.

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