Most candidates don't seek high elected or appointed government posts with the sole intention of becoming rich from the earnings they receive from the U.S. federal government. While compensation for such offices as the U.S. president and others is very generous when compared with the average American's salary, most of these men and women would likely make more money in the private sector and often do.

For example, George W. Bush and Al Gore, the leading candidates in this year's presidential election are both very wealthy. Gore, as the current serving vice president, enjoys an annual salary of $181,400 ($175,000 prior to 2000), an expense account of $10,000, plus free housing. He has a net worth of at least $870,000, but made much of his money from 1993 to 1997, earning $1,186,261 in royalties for his best seller, "Earth in the Balance," according to Fortune magazine. Bush has had even more success in his business dealings. In 1989, Bush invested $600,000 to become part owner of the Texas Rangers major league baseball team. When the team was sold in 1998, Bush earned at least $14.9 million from the deal, according to CNN. As the governor of Texas, Bush earns $115,345 annually.

As president, Bill Clinton makes $200,000 and gets additional money in various expense accounts. However, in September 1999, President Clinton signed legislation that will increase the presidential salary to $400,000, effective January 2001. The Constitution prohibits pay raises for sitting presidents. This presidential pay raise will be the first since 1969, when the president's salary was raised from $100,000 to $200,000. Adjusted for inflation, $200,000 in 1969 would be worth $930,232 today. On top of the salary and expense accounts, the U.S. president is given free housing with plenty of amenities. The White House has 132 rooms, 32 bathrooms, including a movie theater, bowling alley, billiards room, tennis court, jogging track and putting greens for entertainment. He also has use of Camp David, the presidential retreat.

Congress receives frequent pay raises. In the last 17 years, pay for the average member of Congress has more than doubled, from $69,800 in 1983 to $141,300 in 2000. However, if you were to adjust their 1983 salaries for inflation, members of Congress would make $119,708 in 2000. The president pro tempore of the Senate and the majority and minority leaders of both houses are paid $156,900. The speaker of the House of Representatives makes $181,400. These salaries include the $4,600 pay raise that members of Congress voted themselves in 1999. This year, lawmakers are again pushing to increase their salaries, seeking a $4,200 pay raise that would bump their salary up to $145,500, effective January 2001. To get a better idea about how much money that involves, multiply $4,200 by 535, which is how many members of Congress there are, and you will get $2,247,000. Currently the total pay for all members of Congress is about $75 million.

Here's a list of some federal employees and their current salaries as of August 2000. (The president will receive a $200,000 raise in January) :

Executive Branch

  • President: $200,000; $50,000 expense account; $100,000 nontaxable for travel; $19,000 official entertainment account; free housing
  • Retired president: $150,000 pension; plus $150,000 to maintain staff
  • Former first lady: $20,000
  • Vice president: $181,400; $10,000 expense account; free housing
  • Presidential Cabinet member (i.e. secretary of defense, attorney general, etc.): $157,000
Legislative Branch
  • Speaker of the House of Representatives: $181,400
  • Senate president pro tempore: 156,900
  • Senate and House majority and minority leaders: $156,900
  • Other senators and representatives: $141,300
Judicial Branch
  • Supreme Court chief justice: $175,400
  • Supreme Court associate justices: $167,900
Here are some interesting links: